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Mchinji orphanage
Braillers project
Perkins Braillers Rehabilitation Project

The education system in Malawi, though conceptually sound, is chronically under-resourced. Blind and visually impaired (BVI) students are doubly disadvantaged because of their disability and the lack of funds to import the relatively expensive equipment needed for them to acquire and maintain braille literacy.

In recent years, arrangements for ensuring that BVI students and their teachers have ready access to working braillers have become progressively unreliable. Years of pressure on running cost budgets have had a particularly adverse impact on the availability of tools, essential spare parts and replacement machines, which are made by Perkins in the United States. As a result, the structure set up several years ago for managing the stock of braillers has all but collapsed. Only through cannibalisation of broken machines, allied to the imagination and skills of two specialist mechanics at Montfort College, near Blantyre in the Southern Region, has it proved possible to keep the system working at all, albeit at a gradually declining level of effectiveness.

The project Malawi Tomorrow has been implementing since early 2006 is essentially one of logistics management. At its core is the need to set in place a reliable system for procuring, maintaining, repairing and distributing braillers. The first phase required the importation of a significant quantity of parts, tool kits, manuals and training materials. Phase two involved the collection of about 250 broken machines from throughout the country and their delivery to the workshop at Montfort College. The third phase, now in progress, entails the redistribution of repaired braillers to the schools and colleges they came from. Thereafter, arrangements will be made to conduct courses in each of the three regions to train teachers how to maintain braillers on a day to day basis and to carry out simple repairs on the spot. In due course, a quantity of new, replacement braillers and a generous working stock of spare parts will be imported, sufficient to restore the national stock to a healthy level and to provide a strategic reserve.

The project is expected to be completed by early 2008, although it might take somewhat longer before full financial and management responsibility can be transferred to the Ministry of Education.

The Scottish Executive is providing the bulk of the funding from its International Development Fund. The balance is being donated by Malawi Tomorrow’s traditional supporters, including the Allied Irish Bank and Scottish Courage Brewers.

Click here to read extracts from Malawi Tomorrow's annual report on the project’s
first year.