CAB Annual Report 2013

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CAB ANNUAL NARRATIVE REPORT COVERING THE PERIOD

JANUARY- DECEMBER 2013

PREPARED FROM THE ASSOCIATION’S NATIONAL RESOURCE

CENTER FOR THE BLIND, VAI TOWN COMMUNITY

ROBERTFIELD HIGHWAY, PAYNESVILLE CITY

MONTSERRADO COUNNTY, LIBERIA JANUARY 3, 2014

 

   We entered the year 2013 faced with the task of continuing the implementation of the two-year Inclusive  Education Program for Liberia being funded by the government of Canada, its Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade  and Development through the world Braille Foundation. The project is implemented in two of the public primary schools based in rural Margibi and Grand Bassa Counties, respectively, which are two of the fifteen political sub-divisions of Liberia. About thirty blind and visually impaired boys and girls have already been enrolled as a direct result of the intervention from the project.  Four regular primary school teachers who are in the employed of the two schools and four other resourced teachers from the association underwent a three-month training in special need education, following which the teachers took assignment with the Larkayta and Gorblee public schools.  The additional four rehabilitation teachers were assigned as teacher assistants, two each at   the primary schools mentioned above. In addition, two resource centers were established in the two schools to facilitate the mainstreaming of these students.

 

Moreover, the development of a national inclusive education policy for the blind, visually impaired and other special need students is a milestone achievement in the undertaking of the program, as the government of Liberia is currently deliberating to adopt the policy as part of its national development agenda.

Dr. Euclid Herie, President of the World Braille Foundation, and its program manager, Barbara Majeram, had paid an assessment visit to Liberia in October 2013 and successfully conducted a six-day evaluation of the project.  CAB and its collaborating partners wish to congratulate the African Union of the Blind for the facilitating role played in enabling the blind people of Liberia to successfully implement the inclusive education project in Liberia.

The enactment of the public facility law to ensure traffic safety for the visually impaired in Liberia is yet another development our organization has successfully recorded as an economic victory for the nearly 200,000 two hundred thousand blind and visually impaired in Liberia. This is not only to guarantee access to public buildings and the environment but the establishment of policy on the use of the white cane and safeguard the rights of the blind to access public information and documentation in alternative formats such as Braille, large print and technological services. In June of 2013, the government of Liberia designated our President, Mr. Beyan Gorballa Kota, to represent it at a Diplomatic Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, where an international treaty to facilitate access to published works by persons who are blind and visually impaired was finalized and successfully concluded.

The church of  the Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ, based in the United States, having made a donation of six brand new computers in early 2011 containing jaws for window screen reading soft-wares, had in 2013 again provided some US5,000 (Five Thousand Unites States Dollars) to carry out maintenance and repairs of these computers to continue the training of the blind in access technology at the center for the blind in Liberia. Additional funds were expended by the church to recondition few of the toilet and bath room facilities and the rehabilitation of the water pipes with the provision of a new submersible pump to supply water to the washrooms. The church also provided farming implements and seeds to boost our ongoing agricultural program here at the center.

The commemoration of the annual World White Cane Safety Day program was a colorful event held in the provincial city of Kakata, Margibi County in collaboration with the Vision 2020 Health Team from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and local organizations representing the blind and visually impaired. The observance of the White Cane’s Day program was marked by the participation of student groups from junior and senior high schools located in the vicinity of Kakata and a cross-section of persons with disabilities. Senator Clarice A. Jah, Senior Senator of the province presented the keynote address on the observance of World White Cane Safety Day. It can be recalled that the selection of Senator Jah as the Keynote Speaker was predicated on her role as a lead advocate and Chief Sponsor of the act establishing policy on the use of the White Cane to Safeguard the Rights of the Blind to Access Public Facilities in Liberia.

Though the Association has under very strenuous condition continued to maintain four of its main local branches across the country, it is however, worth mentioning that program activities at these branches are at a low key, owing to the lack of external financial support to sustain membership and livelihood development programs within the branches. As a result, the membership of the organization is decreasing by the day and many persons have resulted into an indecent alternative means of livelihood.  As we continue to seek economic solution to this situation however, the few committed persons in the leadership of the Association view our current acute hardship as a test to our resolve to work for the common good of the blind and our commitment to the principle of self-esteem and individual dignity.

Visible sign of this acute economic condition has manifested itself at the CAB National Resource Center for the Blind, as the current building housing the National Secretariat of the Association stands in dire need of serious rehabilitation and the need to replace some of the furniture and equipment with new ones. The reconditioning of the roof and refurbishment of the interior of the building, including the floor are serious concern to the Center Management and staff. The school building and the boys’ and girls’ dormitories at the Center, each of which has the capacity of 60 students, also need renovation. Our four -wheel drive Toyota Land-Cruiser is the only vehicle being used to enhance the day-to-day operations of the Association. The under carrier of the Toyota needs full rehabilitation. The four tyres of the Toyota and the spear tyre are all need to be replaced with new ones.

To ensure a smooth operation of the Toyota Land-Cruiser, the rehabilitation of same should include a complete replacement of the entire bushing, the shark-absorbers,  seats, changing of one of the doors, key-starter, and others need to be replaced. 

The current land area on which the Center for the Blind is situated, covers about 1,440 or (one thousand four hundred forty) cubit ft. of land or 5000 (five thousand) feet square of land located east of Monrovia,  25 minutes drive away from Liberia’s international air-port  and less than a mile south, overlooking the Atlantic ocean.

The prevailing economic situation has also caused the Association to adopt measures to downsize the Center work force from 17 to a total of 7 personnel. The reduction in the work force affected the administration and support staff of the Association’s Secretariat and Center Management. What is even more challenging is that, the Center is only left with a single security personnel during the night, and this leaves the Center even more vulnerable to thieves and rubbers considering the huge task of guarding the center facilities at night and preventing criminals from breaking in.

This drastic reduction in the work force at the Center for the Blind is increasingly making it difficult for us to provide care and support to the 46 students currently boarding at the dormitories on campus. The Center needs funds to pay salaries to social workers and caregivers working with Center Administration to render care, rehabilitation and daily living skills to pupils attending the programs of the Center. Though few of the teachers working with the Institute at the Center are currently being paid by the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Education, the operation of the Braille Press, also based at Center facility, is heavily resting on the shoulders of the Center Administration. We have had to lay-off the entire Management of the Braille Press due to the lack of financial support.

One other challenging episode experienced at the Center during the education cycle of the year, was the incident of rape involving a forty-five year old man, Clifford Bernard, a student undergoing rehabilitation training at the Center, who was caught committing rape against a 10-year old girl in one of the rooms of the girl’s dormitory. Our biggest challenge in this episode was the unfortunate intrusion of a member of the National Legislature (Honorable Solomon George, representative of  political District #7,  Montserrado County,  who posed as one of the family members of the perpetrator. Representative George had immediately arrived at the Center for the Blind during the weekend with state securities and forcibly took away the gentleman in questioned,  while the matter was being investigated by the Administration of the Center and other family members. In further pursuit of the matter, the Association’s legal counsel, prepared a litigation at the criminal law court to seek redress in the matter. But state securities in co-hoods with the government Ministry of Gender and Children, politically manipulated the matter and swept same under the carpet.

The close of the year did not only leave us with challenging memories, but few other breakthroughs to acknowledge.  Having had two separate meetings with his Excellency, Ambassador Joseph N. Boikai, Vice President, Republic of Liberia during the year under review. The impact of our audience with his Excellency is not only felt in government’s expressed willingness to domesticate the policy on Inclusive Education for the visually impaired and other special need students, but also, the willingness which manifested itself in the recent donation of a 2.7KVA generator to be used at the Center for the Blind.

Also worth noting, is the support our Association continues to receive from the Chief Executive Officer and Management of the United Commodities, Inc., based in Monrovia. The donation of rice and other commodities and most recently the donation of another generator have served as a great relief to the students and center staff.

Access to information technology continues to serve as an essential component to our computer training program for the blind and visually impaired at the center. The Association, on behalf of its officers and members, wishes to commend the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation of Liberia for continuing to provide the needed funds that have enabled our Association to pay subscription fees for the regular use of the internet provided to the Center by the West Africa Communication Company in Liberia.

Finally, was the invitation extended our National President by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to speak at a High Level Ministerial Meeting of the Economic Community of West African states convened in Abidjan, in December 2013. The conference afforded our Chief Executive Officer to present a paper on the topic How Can The Marrakesh Treaty Support Social Inclusion?).

This major event concluded the year’s activities. There is however, one other sad event which we had to close the year with, and this was the home-going of student Mulbah Kollie, aged 12, whose death occurred on December 1, 2013.  The Center Administration was amazed by the number of personalities attracted at the Center by the death of this young lad, many of whom paid visits and expressed sympathy to family. Mulbah Kollie will forever be remembered and missed by his colleagues and Center’s Management.