Education of children and young people with albinism in Malawi

This report collates information from teachers, parents and children with albinism to produce a list of guidelines which are inexpensive and easy to implement. Early identification and appropriate support are essential. There is a common misconception that albinism is progressive and children with this condition will eventually go blind. This is a fallacy and leads to this group being taught Braille, which is both inappropriate and a waste of resources. Pupils with albinism should be encouraged to maximise their existing functional vision as there is no evidence that albinism leads to loss of sight. On the other hand, examples of good practice and a generally supportive attitude towards the inclusion of pupils with visual impairment in mainstream schooling were identified. These need to be disseminated so they become widespread across the sub-Saharan region. Training of specialist teachers should be improved, to inform them about albinism and how to support those with albinism by working with the class teachers to encourage inclusion, rather than removing them from the classroom for special tuition.

Children with albinism on one programme had been given monocular telescopes, but this study found no evidence these were being used. Any interventions should be researched and evaluated. Provision of any low vision devices must be carefully considered and their effectiveness assessed before widespread implementation, to ensure they are suitable for use in a classroom environment or at home. Simple measures such as wearing a wide brimmed hat both indoors and outside, is an effective measure to protect the skin from damaging sun exposure and the eyes from bright light.

This report offers recommendations for improving the education of those with albinism via the provision of accurate information on albinism and clear guidance from the Ministry of Education cascading down to the level of classroom teachers.

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