A booklet, in Swahili and English, could help teachers in Tanzania improve conditions for pupils with albinism in their schools.It has been written by Lancaster University academic Dr Charlotte Baker in collaboration with a team from the Albinism in Africa network founded by Dr Baker in 2014 with funding from the Wellcome Trust.
The guide attempts to dispel many of the myths and perceptions surrounding albinism, to ensure that young people with this genetic condition have access to education and that their classrooms are accessible.Children with albinism are often excluded from education and, even when they are educated, they often face challenges in the school and classroom setting that range from physical barriers to learning, a lack of awareness of how to accommodate their low vision, and a set of myths and stereotypes that can make them a target of their peers.
The booklet, also available as a pdf, will offer guidance to teachers on how to deal with offensive language and behavior and the stereotyping of children with albinism which often has profound consequences.
It will also offer practical advice to teachers as to how best to support the children - simple things such as wearing hats outside and sitting at the front of the classroom near the board and away from bright direct light to help with their low vision.
The guide, a pilot, will also offer advice to head teachers to support teachers in their quest for a positive learning environment and understanding. It will initially be distributed to schools throughout Tanzania through the Standing Voice vision programme and, later, revised for distribution to teachers in other African countries where there are significant numbers of children with albinism.
Doris Mbura, a teacher who took part in a focus group to support the development of the booklet, said "These children are the teachers and doctors of tomorrow. With this support they can be the best."
The booklet production team includes Dr Patricia Lund (Coventry) and Dr Gareth Dart (Worcester), as well as the UK and Tanzania-based NGO Standing Voice and the Canadian NGO Under the Same Sun, which both promote the wellbeing of people with albinism through education and advocacy.
The team's work on the booklet has been supported by the UN Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons with Albinism, Ikponwosa Ero.