Yerevan’s Boarding School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

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Armine Ghazaryan, Boarding School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Yerevan, Armenia © Onnik Krikorian 2003

Yesterday’s post on children in institutions in Georgia reminded me of the work I’ve done on the same issue in Armenia. And recent news about the achievements of one former pupil makes it relevant to post first on Yerevan’s Boarding School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Unfortunately, other news from earlier this year also makes the post timely as the school still remains in need of assistance and support.

[…] Braille books are expensive. Alik Aharonyan, Executive Director of the school, notes that five copies of a textbook in Braille costs AMD 1m (about $2,500).

“One braillewriter costs 500 to 700 US dollars. We have them due to philanthropists, but they have to be replaced with new ones,” Mr Aharonyan told Tert.am. He stressed the problem of textbooks and material and technical resources.

An electronic library is one of the school’s achievements. This is the only school in the South Caucasus created with the sponsorship of the Czech Embassy in Armenia.

“At our school the blind children can use computers. We are also provided with books thanks to philanthropists. Armenia’s Ministry of Education and Science provides 2,000 special notebooks for the children,” Mr Aharonyan said.

With respect to further education for the blind children, Anahit Muradyan of Armenia’s Ministry of Education and Science said that they may receive free higher education if they get pass marks set for paying students.

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Boarding School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Yerevan, Armenia © Onnik Krikorian 2003

Despite controversy surrounding Armenia’s Soviet-era boarding schools which I’ll detail in a later post, the blind school was less depressing than others intended for children with specific ailments or conditions where socially vulnerable children had instead been enrolled simply in order to be fed.

The Boarding School for the Blind and Visually Impaired did cater for children with sight problems or those from families where a parent was blind and unable to provide for their kids.

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Boarding School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Yerevan, Armenia © Onnik Krikorian 2003

What was incredibly interesting for me personally was encountering Armenian sign language and Armenian braille for the first time.

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Boarding School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Yerevan, Armenia © Onnik Krikorian 2003

Unlike many of the boarding schools I visited in 2003-4, the Boarding School for the Blind and Visually Impaired was less depressing. Even if conditions were bad, there was a real attempt by the Director to cater for their needs and also an enthusiasm for studying among the children enrolled. This also included cultural activities.

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Boarding School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Yerevan, Armenia © Onnik Krikorian 2003

Even so, I have to admit I was surprised — if pleasantly so — to discover that some of the children I photographed 10 years ago have now gone on to achieve quite a lot. A comment on my Facebook page, for example, updated me on the girl in the first and next photograph on this page.

Armine Ghazaryan is an awesome, awesome person who has inspired hundreds of young people in Armenia. Every year I have had her talk to my English classes because too many of my students don’t push themselves to study better, thinking they just can’t do it. So she comes in with all her academic honors — including an AUA education in ESL teaching (to sighted people or whoever wants to learn English), a year studying on her own in Kalamazoo, Mich, through the USA’s UGrad Program and more. […] She’s studying for a second master’s degree right now in London because she really wants to get a Ph.D. so she can get a fulfilling job — probably out of Armenia, which is another example of the “Brain Drain” plaguing thie country. Why out of Armenia? Because the saddest part of Armine’s story — and the story of many people here with any type of disability — is the ignorance in society that PEOPLE with disabilities somehow need nurses or should be shunned rather than recognized as the PEOPLE they are and the talents they do posses.

A quick search also came up with a post written by Armine.

Before leaving for the United States, I believed people with disabilities could also be smart, but in America, I learned that they can lead an absolutely independent, interesting and useful life. Back in Armenia, I am now trying to establish supportive organizations like a Disabled Student Services and Resources office and a Handy Van accessible transportation service like I used in the United States. My dream is to have these services in Armenia. It is more than a dream, it is my goal and I am doing my best to accomplish it.

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Armine Ghazaryan, Boarding School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Yerevan, Armenia © Onnik Krikorian 2003

And it’s not just Armine who has managed to overcome what I’m sure have been many obstacles. Last month, for example, Artak Beglaryan, who was blinded by a unexploded ordnance in Nagorno Karabakh and is pictured below, climbed Mount Ararat in neighboring Turkey. And not only that, his professional resume also seems pretty impressive.

Artak Beglaryan has served as Assistant to the Prime Minister of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR) since August 2012. He is currently studying public policy and administration at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy through the Tavitian Scholarship six-month program. In 2012, Beglaryan graduated from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London. He also completed a non-complete master course in conflict studies at Yerevan State University. From 2006-10, he studied political science at Yerevan State University. Beglaryan has worked as a political analyst and columnist for several Armenians newspapers and journals. […]

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Artak Beglaryan, Boarding School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Yerevan, Armenia © Onnik Krikorian 2003

Anyway, there’ll be more photographs and accounts of the work I’ve done documenting social vulnerability and related topics in Armenia, but this can at least be a more positive story until I post more on what still remains a very serious problem — children enrolled into Soviet-era institutions because the State is otherwise unable to cater for their needs.

Follow me on Facebook or Twitter for updates.

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Boarding School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Yerevan, Armenia © Onnik Krikorian 2003

1 Comment Add Yours

  1. abolfazl

    Hi, I like to help the blind in Armenia, I am charity worker, 40, and a man of goodness, Is ther any work I can do freely for the blind…I am free in summer,

    009833313798

    Reply

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