The Mango Town campus of the School for the Blind was over the weekend a scene of excitement and jubilation as the students and their teachers celebrated the school’s 37th anniversary in a grand style.
The occasion, which was climaxed with playing football between the blind students and students from the nearby death school, was interestingly witnessed by a cross-section of the community dwellers.
The Friday’s indoor ceremony was also attended by an array of government officials, who mainly came from the Ministries of Health and Social Welfare, and Education as well as representatives from institutions that are giving helping hands to the institution.
The School for the Blind located in Mango Town, Virginia, outside Monrovia is run under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Education (MOE) in collaboration with authorities at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH/SW.)
The institution was established on February 26, 1977 through a launch of a pilot project initiated by the MOE and MOH/SW in partnership with the Helen Keller International. Since that time, the school has been functioning under the motto: “With our Seeing Hands, We Shall Overcome.” Like any other institutions in Liberia, its fenced-in campus suffered the damaging effects of the country’s decade-long crisis, which left the authority and students spread out.
This and other factors contributed to the delay in the celebration of its 37th anniversary until Friday, March 29, “because of several factors that included a lack of money to meet other expectations, but thanks to Providence for the intervention of authorities at the MOE that provided the needed amount of money for the successful holding of the program.
Earlier in her keynote address on the theme, “Changing what it Means to be Blind,” the deputy Health Minister for Planning, Research and Development, Yah Mantor Zolia, challenged the students and their administrators to consider blindness as ordinary disability, which does not exclude those afflicted from achieving in life.
Relating to the life of a little blind boy, Benjamin Underwood, to the students, Mrs. Zolia said that in the life of the boy, there were purposes.
That was how she cautioned the students to follow Little Underwood example by being focus to go through the academic struggle and attain the level of education and skills in trade, “because anyone who suffered blindness is rehabilitated to take on the societal responsibilities at certain level of education.”
According to her, despite being blind, Little Underwood was enabled to map a detailed psychological or metal plan of his surroundings; something she urged any of the students to also do, “because they too, like Little Underwood, can conquer the world of darkness by going through the rigor of education.”
Another blind person who Mrs. Zolia urged the student to copy the example in life was Helen Keller–who was both blind and deaf. She told the students and their administrators that Helen overcame visually insurmountable (impossible) obstacles to live an extraordinary life.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quitetude, only through experience of trials and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved, Mrs. Zolia quoted one of her memorable phrases from one of Helen’s published books to the delight of the blind students.
On that note, she admonished the students to redefine blindness through their respective individual attitude, the social support (education, training) and or daring vision where they would in turn, be valuable to the society.
Madam Zolia also challenged the visually impaired students not to reduce themselves by becoming street beggars, but to overcome their condition to pursue education to the fullest.
“Do not depend on material support or handouts, but to seek education to realize your God-given potentials, because to have an insight without the necessary visual ability does not inspire anything in life,” Madam Zolia urged.
For the Principal of the School, Jackson M. Suah, the event was put off until Friday, March 29, “because of hurtles that characterized the earlier planning stages.”
He said that the pending activities included field day; an event that involved the visually impaired students playing football, kickball, running track and field, and other activities that involved using physical strength with other students in the community.
Other activities that accompanied the just-ended celebration, according to Mr. Suah, included holding a lecture series with a focus on HIV/AIDS and preventable diseases–specifically those found in the tropics that are likely to affect the students.
Apart from holding the program, Mr. Suah disclosed that the school lacked basic equipment, such as teaching aides for the instructors, support staff, and students.
Meanwhile, Mr. Suah has commended institutions like the American-based Links Incorporated, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is a subsidiary of the World Bank, the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), and Super Petroleum for their continued support to the institution.
While, he remains grateful to these entities for helping the school, Mr. Suah asked them to once again come to the aid of the administration on the occasion of its 37th anniversary by adding up to the ongoing rehabilitation works of the campus and the anniversary focus project–soon to get underway. To contribute to the pending anniversary project, the audience, mostly members of the high table raised the amount of US$120 in cash, while others made pledges that would make the project success.
However, the ongoing rehabilitation works of the campus is funded by the government through the MOE.
While on a guided tour of facilities being renovated, Mr. Suah told reporters that facilities such like the annexes of the boys and girls dormitories, the classrooms and the administration building parts of the exercise.
Meanwhile, Mr. Suah has launched a project to construct a new administration annex of the school to alleviate stockpiling of their books and other important instructional materials in non-spaced room.