LiV project activities in 2023

The CPD-course: Vision Assessment and Education

In the summer of 2022 Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE) led the important endeavour of developing the curriculum for a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for In-service Teachers on Vision Assessment and Education. The document was written in cooperation with vision teachers from Patandi and HVL/Koblenz. After the necessary approval procedures, the CPD education started at Patandi in February 2023. Vision teachers at Patandi, Mohamed Mgeni (MD), Stephord Chalamaganza (MD), Alida Kauki (MD), Rajabu Mtunge (MD), Xavery Likorosa, Fredrick Mchomvu together with Happiness Eliabi were responsible for organizing the course, giving lectures and arranging the practical periods for the students. Project assistant John Urio (M), Prof. Marion Felder from Koblenz University of Applied Sciences and Prof. Gunvor B. Wilhelmsen from HVL were used as supervisors and guest lecturers.

Foto: John Urio (HVL) leads a discussion with the CPD-students.

This first group of 18 Low Vision teachers were all employees in primary schools in the Arusha area. They have been working on their vision competencies with the curriculum throughout 2023. The feedback of the teacher students was very positive. They  found the course interesting and useful. In both semesters they were out in schools, in spring for practical assessment, and in the fall for pedagogical stimulation and education.

Invited children to students screening training at Patandi (left picture). Students screening visual acuity at Meru primary school (right picture.

Students working with pupils at Maja Thai primary school. Supervision from prof. Marion Felder.

May 2023 was a rainy month, so for the assessment the class rooms were too dark. Without enough light the surroundings were not meeting the criteria of vision screening. All elements in the vision assessment therefore had to be arranged outside. Some schools have no electricity and the dark rooms are an extra visual challenge for the students. It is not easy to read the text on the blackboard correctly when there are serious limitations of light in the room.

Altogether more than 160 pupils from Standard 1, 3 and 5 were screened. This gave the students a good experience. Even our colleagues from the University of Dodoma (UDom) joined us during the screening. This experience made them more aware of some of the problems pupils face in school and  what their master students also have to learn about.

After the CPD-students summer holiday it was time for the them to be emersed into the theory part of the next practical work phase. The guiding question was: How is it possible to stimulate different vision functions necessary for learning?

Students preparing material for later use in schools (let picture). Stimulation activities with pupils in schools (middle and rights picture).

Nearly all activities in school involve vision elements. And when the pupils get older the vision challenges increase with more text to read and write and more content to understand. This requires effective visual functions and a persistent fine ocular motor capacity. For a vision teacher it is therefore necessary to assess learning and vision for pupils who are struggling in school. They have to evaluate if vision challenges are present and how these can be overcome or reduced through stimulating activities or services from the health system.

The LiV-partner meeting 2023

At the yearly partner meeting in November 2023, the students were invited to share their experiences and reflect on the possibilities of using this new knowledge in schools and society. In order to do so in a more purposeful and structured manner the students divided themselves into 3 focus groups with different assignments:

Group 1 presented the benefits of supplementing their college based Low-Vision education with vision assessment knowledge from the TCPD course.  

Group 2 focused on how insight in vision functions changed their attitude towards children who are struggling in school.

Group 3  looked into the possibilities and challenges for using the new competence in schools and in the educational system.

It was obvious that the course  changed their attitude towards pupils learning and possibilities.

“Now I can see the student!

When a student earlier mowed forward in the classroom they said they were harsh with them telling them to go back to their desk. Now they wanted to know why the students came. Was it difficult to see the text from their place?

I have changed my attitude! If they did not read for more than five minutes before, I could punish them. But now -  I am a much better teacher!”

One teacher told the audience that she found a boy in her class who turned his head and only used his left eye when reading and writing. His right eye drifted out and he skipped letters and words when he was reading. After a period with stimulation he was functioning better.

The students found that many slow learners, those who seemed lazy or had poor handwriting had in fact different vision problems including eye movement challenges. One group highlighted the need for pre-school screening, but also concluded that there is a need of school wide screening later in the years at school. Group 3 highlighted their confidence in screening after this TCPD-education, and that they now are able to secure a better education for pupils with vision challenges. The vision teachers are absolute able to assess the classes and to bring awareness to other teachers in the school, to school administration, educational officers and parents.

“The problem is that we have all the same school responsibilities as before the TCPD course  and few necessary screening tools. Please allow us to do vision assessments, there are so many pupils in need. We want to develop a system so it can be done effectively. But this needs funding!” (quote from a student)

Power Point:      The students were sending their thanks to the Ministry of Education, Science and

Technology as well as Tanzania Institute of Education, Western Norway University of

Applied Sciences and Patandi teachers College of Special Needs Education for this TCPD-course.

Following Principal Lusian Segesela at Patandi Teachers College of Special Needs Education welcoming words, representatives  from all partners presented the LiV-activities which had taken place since the last partner meeting in 2022.

Dr.  Fika B. Mwakabungu presented TIE, the 6th curriculum reform, the aims and work done for the LiV-project and the TCPD-course including the huge work of developing the curriculum. And even the way forward.

Academic coordinator Mohamed Mgeni presented the activities from the TCPD-course and

how the curriculum structure and content was followed in theoretical and practical work.

Dr. Ignasia Mligo gave us insight in the work connected to establishing the master program  in special needs with a focus on Vision challenges in Learning.

This was the same week that the master students started their education at UDom.

Prof. Dr. Marion Felder, PhD-student John Urio, PhD-student Moses Nyagawa and Prof. Dr. Gunvor B. Wilhelmsen all presented academic works connected to the LiV-project.

The last part of the day was used for group discussions on the  following topics:

  1. How can these new vision teachers be used in the educational system?
    1. They need to raise awareness to school administrations and heads of schools.
    2. They can use the morning time at schools for introduction of the thematic, they can come together with their peers and organize a team. They can organize a schedule for implementation.
    3. But they cannot do this work alone, perhaps though with school officers. It is impossible to do assessment of 200 pupils alone. There is the need of support from others. They could also use the school boards for support.
  2. What is realistic that normal teachers can learn from these vision teachers?
    1. The pupils need to be screened with real tools. The vision teachers need to get a reduction in their work load so they can be able to do these special tasks.
    2. Patandi ought to establish communication with the vision teachers through internet, so they can communicate together and with Patandi. Specialists at Patandi can visit the vision teachers, give supervision and do some follow-up.
    3. Regular teachers can learn about some signs of vision problems among pupils and how to observe their students. They might even be able to help/assist in visual acuity screening and learn how to follow up some challenges.
    4. Regular education teachers and authorities need information on the problem and importance of viewing conditions in the classrooms. A vision teacher can assess the pupils problems and recommend better lighting and material in an accessible format.
  3. When a pupil needs stimulation over a period of time, how can it be arranged and with what resources?
    1. There is a need of developing a vision stimulation program for each child, and to get the needed resources.
    2. The vision teacher needs to develop the program for each pupil, even be there over a period of time and supervise and consult with teachers or parents in how they can implement the program throughout the school day or at home.
    3. But what about money and time?

This partner meeting really showed us what we can reach together, and how much competence Tanzania now has on dealing with vision challenges among pupils in schools. And more competency will be added with the PhD and MEd students who are studying on problem solving, and addressing all the areas mentioned above.

In 2023 Patandi and TIE educated 14 vision teachers who can make a difference for many children if they get the opportunity. They need to be used by the local school authority in a systematic manner where their competence are reflected in new duties and work assignment than before they took this special TCPD course in vision.

Article about the partner meeting published by Koblenz.

The Master of Education in Special Educational Needs

The Master of Education in Special Educational Needs, specialisation in Visual challenges in Learning

Advertisement of the master study 2023.

Form 2021-2022 the UDom-team and HVL planned and developed the curriculum for the Master’s program (Med) in special needs at the University of Dodoma, particularly the specialization in vision challenges. Due to administrative delays at the university it was not possible to start the program as planned in the fall of 2022, but the first group of 20 students in Visual Challenges in Learning was welcomed in November of 2023.

Foto: The happy group of master students learning about vision challenges in education together with some of their lecturers.

The structure of the MEd program consists of full time study over two years. Because of the delay in starting the program, the funder of the LiV-project, NORAD,  gave us an extension for one year. The two year study will therefore be finished in the end of the project period, July -2025.

An intensive week with lectures with Prof. Dr. Gunvor Wilhelmsen.

An intensive week with lectures with Prof. Dr. Gunvor Wilhelmsen.

Practical exercises outside due to delays in furnishing the assessment room at UDom.John Urio was responsible for the very interesting week.



Picture: From the LiV partner meeting in Tanzania 2023.