City blind school kit aids pupils in Malawi

Scott Hilson,16, a pupil at the Royal Blind School, Edinburgh, with a video magnifier machine which is a similar device to one that has been donated to the school in Malawi. Picture: Jane Barlow

Scott Hilson,16, a pupil at the Royal Blind School, Edinburgh, with a video magnifier machine which is a similar device to one that has been donated to the school in Malawi. Picture: Jane Barlow

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Specialist equipment that was destined for the scrap heap has instead been used to help blind children in one of the world’s poorest countries.

More than 30 boxes crammed with gear rescued from the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh have been sent to Malawi. The Braille books, science equipment and magnifiers are now being used in Nkope School for the Blind in the south of the country.

When they were no longer needed following the closure of the Craigmillar campus, a big-hearted couple collected everything up and raised the money needed to ship it to Africa.

Kay Bates and husband Peter, both former teachers at the Royal Blind School, started fundraising for the Malawi Association of Christian Support (MACS) after learning about its work through a charity trustee living in Morningside. They were among the first westerners to travel out to the Nkope School and see first hand the conditions in the school.

Mrs Bates, 66, who worked as a science teacher for 17 years, said: “We have kept up the link with the blind school in Malawi because we were so horrified with the conditions there.

“So when I heard they were closing down the site at Craigmillar and all going to Morningside, I realised that a lot of the equipment would be surplus.

“This equipment has made a phenomenal difference to the children out there.

“This is one of the poorest countries in the world and the standard of equipment they had been using was appalling.”

The couple salvaged games and musical instruments, storing them at St Fillian’s Church until they had raised the £500 needed to transport it to Africa. A CCTV system which magnifies text and images is among the devices which has helped revolutionise teaching.

Esaya Mtenje, a teacher at the school, has sent a letter of thanks to Mrs Bates and everyone at the Royal Blind School.

She wrote: “The contents of the boxes are too numerous to mention, but be assured that they will be put into good use. Special thanks should go to the donation of the CCTV which has a great impact, especially to our learners with low vision.

“As I am writing, learners who are expected to sit for National examinations this year are using it. For this we say bravo our partners.”

Nothing in the shipment is going to waste – any equipment which would not be of benefit to pupils at the Blind School has been passed on to the local mainstream school and other schools in the area.