‘I feel left behind’ says Fred, a blind student from Malawi


Credit: Jonas Gratzer/SC

Fred is a thirteen year old boy attending a primary school in Malawi, which is supported by Save the Children.  His story is one of many who are living with a disability and are coping with the challenges that this brings. His words perfectly capture some of the challenges that the 2020 GEM Report will be covering under the theme of inclusion and education, and for which an online consultation is currently ongoing.

I like my school, but I miss my mom,” says Fred. “I must stay at school and I go home only during holidays. When I lived at home, I could not go to school. There are a lot of people that make trouble for me because I’m blind. But I can’t help it – I have not chosen to be blind! Both adults outside school and many students in other classes tease me. The students in my own class are decent. Some adults say that I am worth nothing.

malawi 3In school I have learned to read and write Braille. Even though I learn both in a classroom with seeing students and in the resource room, I find the resource room to be the best. I get good help from special teachers. But they are just two and have to attend to 34 blind students.

Since the mainstream classrooms are usually crowded and they sit on the floor, as opposed to the resource room where we have desks, other learners step on my writing materials – the hand frame and braille paper – when walking or playing.

malawi 4When the teacher and other learners comment on what is written or drawn on the board and yet I cannot see, I feel left behind.

I am most relaxed and comfortable in the resource room since it is not crowded and I sit on desks where I can put the writing materials safely.

malawi 2

Credit: Jonas Gratzer/SC

When I have lessons in a regular class, there is always another student who is translator and assistant for me, a peer. I try very hard to befriend a lot of people so that they are also good to me. I know that I cannot depend on teachers only, most of the assistance I need can be provided by my peers and I depend on them for things to move for me on a daily basis. When it is difficult to follow the teaching in the classroom, I also depend on my peers to explain.

The nicest thing about school is that there is so much music here. I play drums, and I’m good at it! We, the blind students, sit together on the steps in the shade at the boarding school in the afternoon. We talk, but most of all – we sing. I want to learn as long as I can.”

malawi 5Join the consultation for the 2020 GEM Report on inclusion and education. The team would like to invite you to:


  • Provide substantive feedback to the proposed lines of research.
  • Recommend interesting examples of inclusive education policies and practices from around the world, showing how inclusive education is implemented in schools and classrooms.
  • Recommend potential areas of new research drawing on existing but unexplored sources of quantitative and qualitative data.
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