At the 6th Africa Forum in Kampala, Uganda, Perkins School for the Blind President and CEO Dave Power today called on world leaders to find innovative new solutions to the challenge of educating 46 million children and young adults around the globe who are blind or visually impaired.
“The time is now for all of these children to receive an appropriate and high-quality education,” Power told a crowd of more than 400 attendees from 56 countries. “Not just because it is their right, but also because they can all become productive and engaged members of our communities and contribute to the growth of our economies.”
Power delivered the keynote address during Africa Forum’s first full day. The event is the largest gathering of blindness advocates, policymakers and educators on the continent, and is hosted by the Institutional Development Program, which Perkins co-founded.
Power spoke as part of a panel that included members of several of the world’s most influential blindness organizations, including the World Blind Union, African Union of the Blind and Sightsavers International.
Much of the discussion at Africa Forum focused on the United Nations’ newly ratified Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the impact they will have on programs and services for people who are blind or visually impaired.
With the new SDGs, the United Nations calls on the world to grant equal access to education to people with disabilities, increase the supply of qualified teachers and help young people develop relevant skills for employment.
Power hailed the SDGs as a “common set of goals designed to make the world a better place by 2030,” and said national leaders and non-governmental agencies need to think creatively about how to achieve those goals.
“That is the opportunity and the challenge for everyone in this room,” he said. “We need to help our government agencies and ministers of education develop actionable programs. We need to find better ways to measure progress. We need to attract new sources of funding by inspiring new donors to our cause.”
When those efforts are successful, said Power, “It’s going to be a whole new world for children who are visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities.”
Power noted that Perkins International works with local partners around the world, and has helped build sustainable education programs for children in some 67 countries – many in Africa. Approximately 8.5 million children and young adults in Africa are visually impaired, and half of that population has an additional disability.
Later in the day, Power participated in an interactive workshop with Africa Forum participants, where Perkins International staff highlighted programs in Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Lesotho and Malawi that train teachers and promote vocational training and braille literacy for children and young adults who are visually impaired.