World Braille Day: Inside The Gambia’s Only School for Blind Children

Every January 4th we celebrate World Braille Day, marking the birthday of Louis Braille, the inventor of the tactile alphabet system that allows blind people to read and write. World Braille Day is most likely being celebrated in The Gambia’s only school for blind children that we visited while launching our campaign in the country last October. This inspired us to take a closer look at how blindness impacts primary education.

A teacher reads to blind students from a book printed in braille.

Run by the Gambia Organization for the Visually Impaired, this school’s goal is to prepare children for success in the mainstream system.

In their first year students learn to read braille and to write with the Braille Writing Machine, their primary means of learning and then completing school work. Once acquired these skills open a whole new world previously unknown a gift.

A blind student works on his braille writing machine.
A map of Africa with country names labeled in braille.

While HelpMeSee’s mission in The Gambia is to treat preventable cataract blindness, this visit to The Gambia’s only school for the blind is a powerful illustration of the challenges faced by those with visual impairment of all kinds.

These permanently blind students must acquire these braille skills before pursing their education. For children suffering from blindness due to cataracts most can continue their education after a simple 5-minute surgical treatment.

Just as Louis Braille illustrated that technology is a powerful tool to overcome vision loss, we hope to follow in the footsteps of the great innovator by eliminating one of the treatable forms of blindness, cataract.


HelpMeSee is a global campaign to end cataract blindness. Since 2012, we have delivered over 232,000 surgeries 8 countries, including recent campaign launches in the Gambia and Madagascar. Learn more about our program and comprehensive solution to preventable blindness at http://helpmesee.org