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“Ignorance is the Only Darkness.” - Education for and care of the blind and visually impaired in Slovenia

 

The exhibition “Ignorance is the Only Darkness” about the education of the blind, which was organised by our colleagues from the small but very active Kocevje Museum in 2002, gave us a great deal of pleasure as it dealt in a very interesting way with a special and significant part of education in Slovenia. It spoke about important endeavours towards extending the accessibility of education and knowledge to groups that previously lacked this opportunity. After appearing as a visiting exhibition in the Skofja Loka Museum and the Murska Sobota Museum, as well as at the head office of the Association of the Blind and in the Ljubljana Institute, the exhibition has in 2007 moved to the Slovenian School Museum.

 

            During the period of Austro-Hungarian rule the blind from Slovenia were educated only in institutions in other provinces of the monarchy (Graz, Vienna, Linz), with the nearest being in Klagenfurt. The Institute for the Blind was founded in Ljubljana in 1919, but only three years later, in 1922, it moved to Kocevje, a small town 60 km to the south. Lessons were conducted by specially trained teachers, who gave their pupils a primary school education and crafts skills. Typewriting was introduced in 1939. Because of the War, in 1944 the Institute had to move to Ljubljana. The Institute’s work has proven the success of education and training for the blind and visually impaired. After 1946, the Institute had its premises in the De Notre Dame convent in the Trnovo suburb of Ljubljana; in 1965, a school belonging to the Institute was built next door. Secondary school education for the blind between 1962 and 2004 took place in Skofja Loka, mainly offering the qualifications needed to become a telephonist or office worker, or for work in manufacturing. With the integration of the blind and the visually impaired into regular education, the Institute for Blind and Visually Impaired Young People has in recent decades acquired new responsibilities involving the training of teachers for mobile service. Thus the Institute in various ways supports the education of pupils and students (approximately 150 a year) at the Institute or by using a mobile service. Since the 1960s the blind have increasingly also been included in university education and there are quite a number of highly educated individuals among them. Thus education is a very important step towards the equal inclusion of the blind and visually impaired in society. The first part of the exhibition talks about the historic development of education and care for blind and visually impaired children, whilst the second is about the Kocevje institute for the blind, with a focus on the teaching of geography and weaving. Two classrooms, one with old maps and a Braille typewriter and another containing other teaching aids have been set up. The third part of the exhibition shows modern teaching aids and methods of teaching the blind and visually impaired (a mobile atlas, touchable pictures, an electronic magnifier and specially adapted computer equipment). The exhibition is aimed at and designed for both the blind and visually impaired as well as the sighted. Thus the size and colour of the panels and print have been adapted to the blind; there are also texts in Braille, objects that can be discerned as much as possible by touch, sound recordings of interviews with pupils, music recordings of the Slepi potnik (The Blind Traveller) music group and a video. The updated exhibition, which does not talk only about the historic experience of this area in education, but is also about a more modern set of related issues, has been set up in our museum in the middle of Ljubljana for two other reasons. Firstly, we wish to emphasise the importance of the education of the blind and visually impaired, as it is through equal opportunities in education that the equal position of these groups in society can be achieved. Seven exceptional people with very valuable experience have offered us a few thoughts on this. And secondly, with this exhibition we wish to contribute towards a greater awareness of the needs of the blind and visually impaired so that they become more visible to sighted people and we learn to live together in harmony. Let this thought resonate in our modern day society and accompany the young visitors to our museum to new and important realisations, so that ideas about equal opportunities come alive in practice.

 
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Slovenian school museum
Plečnikov trg 1, 1000, Slovenia,
e-mail: solski.muzej@guest.arnes.si,
telephone: +386 01/251-30-24 (management),
+386 01/251-31-27 (curator),
+386 01/251-31-63 (library)
Production: Spletne rešitve Sloway