THE NIGERWIVES BRAILLE BOOK PRODUCTION CENTRE
A BRIEF HISTORY
In the early 1980s, several Nigerwives (foreign ladies married to Nigerian men) taught in schools where blind students were enrolled alongside their sighted peers and they observed that these pupils did not have textbooks in a format they could access. This was brought to the notice of the Lagos branch of the Nigerwives Association and from then on, members started recording needed textbooks on cassettes. A cassette copying machine was bought and blind pupils from schools in all parts of Nigeria heard of the project and found ways of ordering the cassettes. Over 200 titles were produced in audio format during the 1980s and into the 1990s.
By the 1990s computers were coming into use for producing brailled textbooks; the cassettes were filling a big gap but a book you listen to is not as good as a book you can read and go backwards and forwards. Some Nigerwives therefore decided to look into what was required for braille production and eventually took a proposal to the Annual General Meeting of Nigerwives – which now had branches in many of the states – to set up a braille production centre as a national charity project. Approval was given at the 1993 AGM in Ibadan, provided the funding could be sourced. Funding came from generous donors and the Centre was formally opened in 1995, in a portakabin in the NNPC compound in Falomo, Lagos. In the year 2003, the Centre was granted permission to move from NNPC which had caught fire to the compound of King’s College Annex in Victoria Island, Lagos, for which we are extremely thankful. King’s College has an average of 18 blind students a year, to whom the Centre extends support.
As mentioned above, the Centre pioneered the use of computers for producing brailled textbooks in Nigeria. When it started in March 1995 brailled textbooks were an extremely expensive and scarce commodity. However, thanks to a Nigerwife from Ibadan, the Centre received an award and a grant of £5,000 from the Ulverscroft Foundation, United Kingdom, in 1996. The grant helped the Centre acquire a computer system and a Braille printer.
The Centre also developed and ran mathematics workshops for the blind and visually impaired in 6 geographical zones in Nigeria, with the support of the Nigerian Education Trust Fund. Prior to this, rare were the blind and visually impaired students who had access to mathematical studies.
Twenty-five years on, we can look back and see that the existence of the Nigerwives Braille Book Production Centre has certainly improved the situation of visually impaired school children and young adults, for the better. Braille users can access the Centre by email or phone, obtain a booklist, place an order, pay for them through their local bank and receive them by post.
In the beginning, it was the Centre’s policy to sell the books at the same price as the print books to blind school children as part of our equal opportunity policy. However, because of various factors such as the fact that a Braille book is at least three times more voluminous than a print book and therefore requires more paper as well as the rising cost of embossers, diesel and maintenance, to mention but a few, it is no longer possible to produce them at the same price as the corresponding print books; our Braille books are now sold at production cost. Consequently, the Centre welcomes generous donors who sponsor students’ book needs at Primary, Secondary and Tertiary level of education. (For donations: UBA acct No: 1015321157, Holder: Nigerwives Braille Book Production Centre).
Today, the Centre also orders and sells at cost price, special equipment and teaching aids to encourage teachers to improve the standard of teaching, and learning by blind children.
The Nigerwives Braille Book Production Centre is a member of the Braille Advancement Organizations in Nigeria (BRAON) an association that brings together producers, educators and end-users of Braille. It is also a member of the International Council on English Braille (ICEB).