The digital divide in Kazakhstan
Most schools in Kazakhstan were closed in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Children had to learn remotely. All children faced this challenge. Parents and students struggled with connectivity, access devices, and digital skills. However, for parents and children with visual impairments, the transition to remote education was a disaster.
The transition to remote learning was a disaster for parents and children with visual impairments.
One mother who was visually impaired told me in tears that she bought her daughter a laptop to enable her to learn online. However, the family didn’t know how to connect her to classes or help her navigate through the various online learning resources. Needless to say, it led to a lot of frustration and significant learning loss.
WE knows that children with visual impairments can learn skills that enable them to use digital technology with success with little support. We teamed up with Zhan, a youth resource centre and the software development company EPAM to offer a digital literacy program for children with visual impairments. The programme taught the children the basics of using smartphones and computers, as well as how to use navigation apps and access internet resources. They were also introduced to various software programs and acquired basic programming skills.
The children’s learning results are amazing. The course opened up new opportunities for his daughter. He said that it has given her new ways of accessing information, communicating with family members, and even navigating the city. He asked his daughter: “Daddy, how did you manage all that before I knew how?”
These new skills allow children to dream bigger than ever.
These new skills allow the children to dream bigger than ever. Sophia, ten years old, told me that she used to believe she would be a baker when she grew up. Now I want to become a programmer at a large company like Google or Facebook.
Ilyas Fatkulin is the chief of Zhan. He has a visual impairment and knows how technology can open up new opportunities for people with disabilities. I asked him: “With technology, I can lead an independent lifestyle, manage an NGO such as this and implement useful projects for children. The training program is beneficial for children’s education and daily lives, but it also helps them to find work later in life. However, he pointed out that many Kazakhstan employers are reluctant to hire people with disabilities.
Every child is unique and each child has their own talents. If we want to build an inclusive society it is up to all of us to make sure that every child thrives and realizes his or her full potential.
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Speaking to the children and their parents who received this training has made me realize the true meaning #ItsAllAboutAbility. Every child is unique and we must all work together to make sure that every child realizes their full potential. We delivered the course with Zhan, EPAM, and the Youth Resource Centre to show what it takes to make Kazakhstan truly inclusive. We will keep walking #ForEveryChild, one step in a long and winding path.