Special support for the Speech Contest of the Schools for the Blind

“The 1st-prize winner”
Pham Van Son, Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired, University of Tsukuba, Senior High school, Acupuncture and Massage course, Second year, 32 years old, (Representative of Kanto Koshinetsu).
The title: “For the students after me”

“It is wasting your time and money even if you study hard because you are blind”. I was told that sometimes while I was in a regular school in Vietnam. I have had this visual defect since early childhood. I didn‘t know about schools for the blind so I used to go a regular school since elementary school. So mostly how I studied in class was just listening to the teacher.

However, my sight was getting progressively worse and when I entered the second grade of junior high school; I couldn‘t even see what was on the blackboard at all. Teachers often used the blackboard and wrote sentences and pictures to explain something like “f you add this to this, you get this”. If you can see the blackboard, you wouldn‘t have any problems but I couldn‘t understand the teacher‘s explanation so taking classes in a regular school became so difficult for me.

So I asked my friend to read the textbooks to me, and also prepared myself fully for the next class and reviewed after classes very often. In addition, I invented and made some stuff to write or draw easier using my own initiative and used them when I took tests. For example, I used a string across a paper and used it as a guide to make my writing straight.

However, those things had some problems too. If I made mistakes, I couldn‘t realize it or if I could notice some mistakes, I couldn‘t erase them, therefore, I got always received bad scores on my tests.

During this time, many people told me “You should give up on school” and also “t is pointless if you study hard because most handicapped people can‘t get a job”. Even so, I didn‘t think I want to leave the school because I was thinking of the future, even if I couldn‘t get a job, that knowledge of what I have learned would surely be helpful in my life.

Once I had an experience when I accidentally killed many chickens at once because I kept them in cold place. After I learned how to care for them from a teacher and followed their advice, I could raise them with good health instead of killing them from the cold.

After I graduated from high school, I joined an association for the blind and studied Tenji.  Then I went to a technical school which is for non-handicapped people and learned herbal medicine and acupuncture but I didn‘t have any textbooks and I didn‘t have any money for buying notebooks with Tenji so I was just listening for my studying.

After graduating from that school, I went to three massage centers to ask for a job there but I got refused by them with the only reason being that I was blind.

After that, I decided to go back to my village, borrow some money and open an acupuncture clinic. I studied so hard and worked hard so I was gaining trust from many people.

During that time, I decide to go to Japan. The trigger of what made me decide was meeting with hundreds of blind people in Vietnam. There are no blind schools after junior high school in Vietnam so from high school; we have to go a regular school. Because of this, only a few of them could graduate from high school and only a few of them could get a job so most of them had difficulty the rest of their lives.

I was thinking about what I could do, when I saw the situation. So I decided to go Japan and get an education for acupuncture and massage and bring back that knowledge and skill as well as the method of how to teach blind people in Vietnam.  Then I thought about building a school for the blind to help make them independent.

These were the triggers for me come to Japan and my follow my dream.

For this dream to come true, I have been translating textbooks such as physiology into Vietnamese and teaching five Vietnamese-Japanese people to help them have the same dream as mine.  

“Even if we have difficulty with our sight, there is a way that is opened for your success if you study and work hard”. I want to learn in Japan and then help blind people in my own country, even if it‘s only a little.  With this belief; to not let people after me be told “t is wasting your time and money even if you study hard because you are blind”, never again.

“The 2nd-prize winner”
Shuhei Yokoi, Osaka Prefectural Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired, Senior High school, ordinary course, Second year, (Representative of Kinki)
The title: “What I want to see the most”

“What is it that you want to see the most?” I was asked by my teacher last year.
I haven‘t had my sight since I was born and never had any experiences to see anything around me like scenery, my family or friends, etc. I have never even seen light so my life has been always in the dark. I make my life cycle with feeling heat from sun, temperature and time. I wonder what is “seeing” in the first place. In my dictionary, there were explanations of “seeing” which is “to get some information or itself by using your eyes. Come into view. Look at. Direct one‘s eyes toward it to check its existence, shape or appearance by yourself”. My friend says, “Seeing is that understanding without touching, smelling and hearing it”. Although, I can‘t understand what is “seeing” at all.

The color of things such as “Red” or “Blue” or the scenes like “Sky” or “Clouds”, I never understand them because I can‘t touch or hear them.
“What is that you want to see the most?”
“ hadn‘t even thought about it”.
“t is impossible! Don‘t you have anything, at least one thing?”
I became speechless when I tried to answer him.

He continued to ask, “What kind of imagination do you have about colors?” I still remained silent.
Until the moment the teacher asked me those questions, I have never had or felt any desires like “ want to see that or I want to see this!” also I never thought about “colors” at all.

“Everything or every scene has color. I feel ashamed by not knowing about color at all. I can‘t talk with ordinary people with this situation!” I felt so.

“What color does this have?”
“What does this look like here?”
I thought if I get some questions about such things, I should ask people actively and increase my knowledge.

For example, my image of colors・・・
Red is a mailbox, an apple and vending machine for Coca-Cola.
Blue is the sky, the ocean and the label of Pocari Sweat.
Yellow is a banana, a lemon and a sunflower.
Green is a leaf, a black board and the information window for JR.
Brown is a tree, the earth and chocolate.
Clear is a glass window, water and a glass.
Black is a piano, charcoal and a soybean from Tamba.
Pink is love.
And this color what I‘m seeing right now, dark and Black. 

Now I barely have some knowledge like this. If I try to study about color by myself and to search about “Red” with my dictionary, there is only “one of the primary colors. Color of fire” and there was not anything about its use or examples. Then I thought “There should be a color dictionary which has more explanations and examples so the blind can understand it better and easier”. If we had such a dictionary, we can have more imagination of color and the distance between ordinary and blind people can be decreased.

Please someone, Could you please make the color dictionary? I want to have more knowledge of color. I want to talk with everyone more. I want a dictionary that I can know about the color for everything.  Please!

You can understand about it without touching, smelling or hearing it, the “seeing“ is like a supernatural power to me. Although, don‘t you think a blind person who can live without seeing anything also has supernatural power? I don‘t care if we get a power failure, blackout and everywhere becomes dark around us! What I want to see the most right now? It is・・・the atmosphere spread out before me right now. Everyone‘s face that is here in this place, I want to see the different color of skin each of you has; and my father and mother who are always taking care of me.

“The 3 rd-prize winner”
Kento Ogata, Fukuoka Prefectural Yanagawa School for the Blind, Second grade of Junior high school, 14 years old, (Representative of Kyusyu)
The title: “From dark in the past to the light in the future”

When I found out that sometimes my eyes shake, I was in second grade of elementary school. I was teased by my friends like “Wow, his eyes are wobbling!” Also when I asked to join friends who were playing some ballgame, “Can I play with you guys?”, they became quiet first then played rock, scissors, paper to decide which team gets me and the team which lost got me. A humiliating situation like this has happened repeatedly and finally I got tired of it. I started to take it out on classmates so little by little I was ignored by them in class.

In the meantime, I got into the third grade and met new classmates. They became my friends for playing kickball. However we had to fix one thing; it was that I couldn‘t see the ball when it is rolling to me. So a good friend of mine said, “You can put the ball on the ground and kick it. When you need to run, somebody can do that for you”. Everybody agreed with him and at the next recess, we played with the new rule. From then, I could enjoy playing with my friends and was happy with that. Although, my sight was getting worse, by the time I was in fourth grade, I visited The Yanagawa School for Blind with my elementary school teacher.

What I was surprised about first was the amount of people in the school. The total number of students was about only one out of 70 for the elementary school I used to attend. My first time at school during its open visitation day, I made a friend quickly with a boy who I was studying with in a trial class and I spent recess with him on a trampoline.  That day, while attending other trial classes in Japanese and math, I realized I may be able to read faster if I learn Tenji so I told my mom that afternoon when she was in the kitchen, “ want to go Yanagawa School when I begin fifth grade!” Then I cried and I didn‘t know where the tears come from. Now I look back at the moment, I think maybe I might have thought about missing my kickball friends from my elementary school.

In May of last year, I became a fifth grader at the Yanagawa School for the Blind. Who I met in there were five which number is whole students in the school of friends and they were so friendly. Within a few days, I could talk with everybody, it didn‘t matter if they were older or younger, and day by day, I even argued about some things like “The ordinary people park their bicycle on a tactile paving without any permission!” Conversations like that were impossible when I was at the elementary school which was for people who aren‘t blind!

Also I found my passion at the school. It is an instrument called the drum. At first I was surprised that the musical room had a drum. Also they had some expensive instruments such as the contrabass and the trumpet and they were everywhere. In a music class, when I was looking at them like “ missed them”, I was asked “Do you want to play?” I remembered when I was playing in my cousin‘s house and how I easily learned rhythm. I enjoyed and got into it so I started to play more during some playtime, because of that, my skills were improving along.

During that time, I came under stress and became unable to trust my teachers or friends and I was yelling out to people like “You think I shouldn‘t be here anyway!” Because of this, I was separated from two of my classmates and put in a different class and was only allowed to stay at the dorm on Tuesdays and only in a month when other classmates weren‘t staying there.  Actually now though, I can be in the same class with others except for the dorm, after that happened two years ago, I am still apart from them at the dorm. 

Even though I have so much stress, when I sit at the drum, get the sticks, put my feet on the pedal and start to play, I can soon be relaxed. I will keep playing drum and in the future, I want to tell people who has a prejudice against blind and show them our power, “We blind can do the same as you who have sight”.

Also during these two years I have been trying to get my trust back, I want to think and care about my friends here at the school.
What I met here at the school and became my treasures is the drum and my friends! I will put these two things in my heart and start running to the light in the future from dark in the past.