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Shanghai's Only Blind School Seeks Textbook Funding
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The Shanghai Blind Children School is asking city residents to donate money for needy blind students to cover the cost of Braille textbooks, a heavy burden that is usually neglected by other charity programs.



A visually impaired girl reads a text during a class at the Shanghai School for the Blind in Shanghai January 23, 2007. The school has 180 students out of which about 150 are boarding students. The school aims to teach the students acupuncture, massage and piano tuning among other skills.


"We sincerely hope people will show their love not only by subsidizing our students' daily life, but by helping to ease their high exercise book costs. That's the most urgent need for them," said Chu Ying, who runs the dean's office at the school.


Blind students in the Shanghai use the same textbooks as other children, but the school, which is the only institute for blind children in Shanghai, has to translate them into Braille and have them specially printed.


Due to the high cost of printing Braille books, each textbook costs about 40 times the price of normal textbooks.


While the city government covers much of the cost of basic education for blind students, it doesn't offer enough money for textbooks, especially for students studying for the national college entrance exam, the school said.


The school has allocated 1 million yuan (US$128,866) to subsidize the cost of printing the textbooks, but students still have to pay 20 percent of the price themselves.


"Say each of the Chinese, math and English subjects need two exercise books, the cost is a considerable amount of money for a normal family, let alone those needy children whose parents are both disabled," Chu said.


He said the constant need to change textbooks as the city reforms its education system has made the problem worse.


The school used to encourage students to recycle their books by passing them on to younger students, but that has become impractical due to the constant change in books used, Chu said.


Yuan Jinxing, the school's headmaster, said that years of subsidizing expenses for students have put the school into a tight financial situation that it can no longer afford to maintain.


(Shanghai Daily March 5, 2007)

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