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Dec 16, 2021

COVID Chronicles– Visually Impaired Students Adapt and Excel Despite COVID Restrictions

In this week’s COVID Chronicles, reporter Marion Ali got the opportunity to interview some very inspiring young people who have taken the challenges of COVID-19 in stride, changing their learning strategies, or one instance, even teaching others. While there are thousands of Belizean students in the same situation, these three stand out because they are all visually impaired. But as Marion found out these students are pretty unstoppable in everything they do.

 

Marion Ali, Reporting

Daeyan Arda is a sophomore at Belize High School. Born prematurely, he suffered Retinopathy of Prematurity or ROP for short, soon after birth. It’s an eye disease that occurs in premature babies and sometimes leads to blindness. Daeyan started playing music at age two. Now, at almost sixteen, he teaches the piano voluntarily in his free time. His blindness does not impede his abilities, and neither has COVID.

 

Daeyan Arda, Blind Student/Music Teacher

Daeyan Arda

“I’m right now with my current eighteen-year-old blind student who I’m teaching the piano – very basic, very – she is doing so well.”

 

But Daeyan’s mom, Tracey Arda says the biggest challenge in these COVID times is tempering her son’s reliance on his sense of touch with COVID safety measures, and in his case, stricter ones.”

 

Tracey Arda

Tracey Arda, Daeyan’s Mom

“We had to have a long conversation over and over with him about – “Daeyan, you won’t be able to touch anyone or touch anything and you’ll get more assistance than you normally do during this time. So ask questions first, ask for direction, don’t touch anyone. Please don’t touch anyone. Don’t touch your face, don’t touch your eyes.” It was very important that he knew that very early on.”

 

What blindness requires of students like Daeyan prepares them better for remote learning, which is a scenario that COVID has brought about. But the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI) has been there providing the necessary tools to learn.

 

Carla Ayres-Musa, Executive Director, BCVI

Carla Ayres-Musa

“As they get older, which you would have found with some of the students that you met, we introduce laptops. We provide a laptop for them that is equipped with text-to-speech software so they are able to browse the internet, how to type up word documents, how to send e-mails, and because we started this years ago it has, in my opinion, helped with the transition to this online learning. Having already being introduced to laptops or to technology I think has really helped our students. I know it’s just a matter of working to transition them back into school.”

 

Twelve year-old Miracle Waight is a standard six student at Saint John Vianney Primary School. She too has been excelling, despite the restrictions that COVID has posed.

 

Miracle Waight

Miracle Waight, Standard 6 Student, St. John Vianney Primary School

“Somebody wudda help me log eena my class because I just di learn fi use the screen reader and then for exams they wudda read out the questions, I given dehn the answer and dehn type it in then dehn submit it.”

 

Marion Ali

“I understand that you’re an excellent student. How do you manage to do that?”

 

Miracle Waight

“If you have a brain then you could do anything. Yoh nuh really need fi see.”

 

Jacqueline Waight, Mom of Miracle Waight

Jacqueline Waight

“Miracle is learning to do Braille. So a lot of her notes, although the teacher teaches online, a lot of it will have to be in Braille so has to learn to read back her notes, or a recording because the teacher send it in video as well. But in regards to her over the years coming in first, second the lowest, one year she had severe nerve pain, she came in sixth. But Miracle rises above challenges.”

 

Also rising above the challenges in these COVID times is sixteen year-old Dameon Ferguson, another sophomore of EP Yorke High School. While he is doing well in his remote learning, COVID did pose one challenge for him.

 

Dameon Ferguson

Dameon Ferguson, Blind student, EP Yorke High School

“I learn by just listening, Well for Math its kinda hard Math is more of a hands-on subject so this pandemic messed that up.”

But Dameon has learned to use an app that simplified the problem. The BCVI is there to help them with that.

 

Carla Ayres-Musa

“Our job is to make sure that children who are blind or severely visually impaired are given everything that they need to be able to function independently and to succeed in school. We provide all their canes, we provide the talking calculators, we provide their Braille books.”

 

While the learning for these students continues remotely, their parents will have another worry when schools reopen.

 

Tracey Arda

“For most of it he gets it but we still see here, there where he may forget and his dad and I were thinking whether we should send him back to school when that became an option to go face to face. And when Belize came out with the vaccine and it was approved for his age group (we decided) immediately we have to get him on this and take the vaccine as quickly as possible because then he has a better chance and also be able to go back to school.”

 

But until that day comes, they do what they do best from the comfort of their homes.

Marion Ali reporting for News Five.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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