The Talking Textbook Programme

Posted by Francesca Rutherford on Friday 13th January 2017

Ethiopia has the highest rate of preventable blindness in Africa. Our partner SENTigray support children with special educational needs in the Tigray area of Ethiopia. Unfortunately, in Ethiopia, only 1% of children with such needs have access to specialised education and are often disregarded by society.  

We are supporting the Mekelle Blind School to ensure these children have their right to access an inclusive education. We will be helping to provide training in Perkins Braillers as well as a more supportive caring environment for the children, some of whom are as young as 5 years old and a long way from home.

In order to provide a quality education for these visually impaired children, SENTigray have started the Talking Textbook Programme.


Masho (left) holding up an ATP and Techma Gidey (right) a university graduate now working at Operation Rescue, holding the original braille volumes for Grade 9 Biology (left hand) and Grade 9 Geography (right hand).  Six such textbooks can be uploaded onto the MP3 players. 


SENTigray have recorded some 24 textbooks for grades 5 - 8, recruiting over 20 volunteer readers and doing all the editing to prepare the texts for uploading onto the audio players. The 40 students at Mekelle Boarding School for the Blind, who have been trailing the audio textbook players for over 6 weeks, remain very enthusiastic indeed.  

The SENTigray team, with the assistance of two special education needs curriculum experts from the Regional Education Bureau, have conducted 21 distribution and training workshops in Mekelle, and in the towns of Adwa, Adegra and three other towns.

246 visually impaired students in grades 5-8 in 59 schools, as well as the blind teachers in these schools, have now received their audio textbook players.  These audio textbook players are absolutely vital to the visually impaired students, even to the point that some schools send students back home to get their audio textbook players if they have not brought it.

Of the 246 players distributed to date, only one broken one has been sent back.  SENTigray has been monitoring the distribution only in Mekelle so far, but feedback has been "very exciting and encouraging," students saying, "audio textbook players restore our eyesight."


Mebrhit Alemayehu, a year 7 student living at the Blind School, showing her sighted friends the recording of the textbook.

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