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Published: February 29th 2008
The Buigiri School for the Blind is one of five schools operated by the Diocese of Central Tanganyika. It was founded in 1950 by an officer in the Church Army and is situated in the village of Buigiri, roughly 20 km east of Dodoma. It was the first school of its kind in the country, which at the time was the British protectorate of Tanganyika. The choir from Buigiri School attended our church one Sunday and then a month later, Gerry and I visited the school.
Buigiri is a residential primary school with a current enrollment of 96 students, offering grades 1 through 7. While a majority of the students and a number of the staff are blind or visually impaired there are places for some sighted students as well.
The Head Teacher (Principal) of Buigiri is a truly remarkable man. He has been at the school for many years, starting out his career there as a fully sighted member of the teaching staff. Roughly 10 years ago he was involved in a serious traffic accident and as a result lost his sight. He is totally blind. Following his accident he retrained as a teacher of the blind, went
back to Buigiri and is now the Head Teacher.
Buigiri has struggled to stay afloat financially for much of its existence. At one point seven years ago the situation was so desperate that the Head Teacher was on the street begging for donations of food so the children could eat. They were down to their last sack of maize. He was discovered begging by a visiting English businessman who took on the project of first acquiring food so the children could be fed and then setting up a foundation to provide for the ongoing support of Buigiri. There is now a modest foundation in Britain to support the school and the financial situation is fairly stable although the foundation must continue to grow to ensure Buigiri’s long-term viability.
I asked the Head Teacher who his students are and where they come from? He replied that his students come from villages in the Dodoma rural district. There are several hundred villages in this area. Many children and adults here suffer from visual impairment or blindness due to injury or infection, both of which typically go untreated, as there are so few medical facilities outside the main centres of population.
This lady and gentleman were both early graduates of Buigiri School. They are both blind and instruct the current students in various crafts.
There are virtually no educational programmes for children with disabilities. Recognizing how unstimulated their lives would be without school and what tremendous potential these children possess, the Head Teacher goes into the villages and seeks these children out and personally arranges for them to attend his school. So, the students of Buigiri are village children for whom, given their disability, the alternative would be to live much of their lives sitting in the corner of a hut or under a tree.
Knowing where these students come from and the life they would face if they were not at Buigiri, makes their academic achievements all the more remarkable. The Tanzanian education system requires students to write a number of sets of standardized exams in order to be eligible to progress from one stage to the next. One of these exam sets is written at the end of Grade 7. In 2007 of the 13000 or so primary schools in the country, Buigiri placed sixth! These children who would otherwise face such a bleak life rise to the challenges they face with astonishing success. One can only wonder at all the other children who never have that opportunity and whose potential
One of the classrooms.
The furniture is of the same construction as at CAMS. It is very heavy, solid wood construction, made locally.
daily goes unrealized.
Until recently, there has been nowhere for the graduates of Buigiri to continue their academic education. There is now a plan afoot to provide a residential programme for blind students at Mvumi Secondary School, another diocesan school in Mvumi, a town about 40 km south of Dodoma.
So that is a little bit about the Buigiri School. Like so many projects and institutions in Tanzania it is inspiring. We hope you enjoy the pictures and are able to run the short video clip.
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