Children with vision disabilities find new hope through music in China
Asia-Pacific, August 1 2017
BEIJING: Wuhan School for The Blind is the only school of its kind in Hubei province, central China. Not only does it cater to pupils who face enormous challenges because of their disabilities, but it is also proud to have a star teacher who has given new hope to the pupils.
China, with its huge population, has a large number of people with vision disabilities. More than 5.5 million people are registered blind, among them, some 120,000 children. Though there are more than 50 special schools in major cities catering to the needs of these individuals, the task is never easy. Special facilities and teacher training is hard to come by and the children often feel alienated from society and lack ambition.
Zhang Long, born in 1975, volunteered to teach at Wuhan City School for the Blind in 2011. Though she had no experience teaching children with vision disabilities, after seeing the difficulties faced by pupils there, she decided to change the course of her life and accept the challenge of making a difference to their future.
It wasn’t long before the gravity of the situation sunk in. As a music teacher she discovered many pupils at the school of 150 lacked the motivation to even turn up to class, believing their only career option would be to become a massage therapist, a common occupation for blind people in China.
Persevering, Zhang Long established a school radio station, a rock band for the most talented children, and invited performances from other schools. Eventually, the children responded to this new approach revealing both passion for music and hidden talent. One student, Gan Wenjun, proved gifted at piano, for which he won several national awards and even played with famous pianist Richard Clayderman in concert.
Among other successes, Zhang Long was awarded titles such as “Most Admirable Teacher in Wuhan” and a national honor “The Most Beautiful Teacher of China”,“I’ve never treated them as blind children,” says Zhang of the pupils. “It doesn’t matter that those kids can’t see. They can use their own ways to express themselves. I’ve never lowered my standards for them because they are blind, because to me they are just children.” Her approach seems to have worked and now pupils harbor ambitions such as to become a teacher, a professional singer and even an astronaut.
Wuhan City School for the Blind holds the belief that children with vision disabilities are perfectly capable of the same achievements as sighted kids, given the right guidance and a little courage. Since its establishment, it has helped over 500 children pursue their dreams and been a cradle of many rising stars in music, sports, teaching and other fields. It aims to keep making contribution to China’s endeavors in inclusive education.
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