Establishing Braille Proficiency Levels among Primary School Teachers of Learners Who Are Blind in Kenya.
Nzoka, S. M.
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The purpose of the study therefore was to investigate Primary teachers' abilities to read and write English and Kiswahili Braille grade 2, Braille mathematics notation and the creation tactile graphics which aid teaching and learning for learners who are blind. The study further investigated the extent to which the teachers guided their' learners to master the Braille code and understand the tactile graphics. The study was guided by. the rationale that a full understanding of Braille proficiency and literacy must be solidly grounded in theory that teachers' professional practices are based on, and guided by, a sound body of Braille knowledge. In addition, the study was theoretically led by the view that reading, writing, speaking and listening are integrated language processes. This study used a descriptive survey design where the researcher tried to describe characteristics of subjects and to obtain information from representative information and from that sample; the researcher was able to present the findings as being representative of the population as whole. As a compensatory academic skill, Braille is a major literacy media for students with blindness. Indeed, the personal and professional lives of people who are blind highly depend on the value they give to Braille. As such, Braille must be taught effectively. The teachers must be trained and become fully competent Braille users. They must have a comprehensive understanding of Braille code and tactile graphics. In this sense, the major question that this study endeavoured to answer was whether the teachers of learners who are blind were competent Braille readers and writers for easy interaction with their learners in teaching and learning processes. Target population in this study was 268 teachers of learners with blindness in special schools for the blind and integrated programmes for the blind in Kenya. The study was conducted in five of the eight provinces in Kenya namely, Coast, Eastern, Nairobi, Rift Valley, and. Nyanza. The reasori for choosing this locale was for the availability of the targeted special schools. Two methods were used to select the population namely: disproportional stratified technique and the purposive Sampling technique. The researcher therefore purposively sampled 89 teachers who had been teaching in special schools for the blind and integrated programmes for not less than two years. Data for this study was collected through the use of four instruments: a questionnaire, an observation schedule, achievement tests and Focus Group Discussions (F.G.Ds). As each method had strengths and weaknesses, the instruments purposely complemented each other. The findings and suggestions of this study were envisaged to provide a more comprehensive view of the extent to which primary school teachers of pupils who are blind used Braille Grade II to teach their pupils. This knowledge would in turn, lead to a better understanding and hence effective interaction between the teacher and the pupils who are blind. The appropriate interaction between the teachers and their learners would in the long run lead to better academic performance by pupils who are .blind. The findings of the study, however, showed that teachers generally lacked Braille proficiency and literacy. The teachers scored poorly not only in the achievement test administered to them but also demonstrated lack of Braille proficiency in guiding their learners to use Braille effectively in learning situations. The teachers who scored above 70% qualified to be Braille proficient. The study recommended that serious effort should be made to train the teachers in Braille so as to increase their ability to teach learners who are blind and thereby improve their academic performance.