Star of the Study: The Institute for the Blind – A short Historical overview

Star of the Study:  The Institute for the Blind – A short Historical overview

The Institute for the Blind

Rev Kobus Conradie, Chairman of the Board of Control of the Institute for the Blind, recently stated the following in the Institute’s ANNUAL REPORT (2010 – 2011):

 “Our society is no longer controlled by the largest deemed denominator, the view of the community, but by what you deem correct.  And together with that comes the evil of hedonism – take as much as possible out of life to make it pleasant and worthwhile.  It is therefore logical that an organization such as the Institute for the Blind that depends on the generosity of people will suffer during these times.  And we have indeed observed the decrease in income at the Institute. But on the other hand, we are also surprised by the many people who move in against the stream of this storm – people that still do not live for themselves, but are rather prepared to, on all levels, lighten the burden of those who are less privileged.”

The blind person has always been part of mankind, but has not always been part of society.  For centuries the blind person has been marginalized by society.  The care and responsibility for the blind person has always been the responsibility of the family. The first school for the blind was established in 1784 in Paris, France.  In 1877 two ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church, Pastor William Murray of Worcester and Pastor Christiaan Rabie of Piketberg, became aware of the special needs of deaf and blind children in their congregations as well as in the greater South Africa.  In 1881 “Het Doofstommen en Blinden Instituut” was established in Worcester, which paved the way for the education of the blind.  This was the beginning of the meaningful integration process of the blind into society and the workplace.

The first teacher entrusted with the educational needs of these learners was Mr Jan de la Bat.  Lenie du Toit was the first ever learner and was within two months followed by 7 co-learners of whom one was blind.  After 25 years, it was found that the differences in teaching methods, determined by the diverse needs of the disabilities, necessitated the establishment of two separate schools. 

By the end of the 19th century music training and handwork were established as main focus areas.  A need for baskets in the local agricultural sector led to the training and further development of cane weaving.  The academic programme with special adaptations was developed, and very soon the blind child followed the National Curriculum as offered in mainstream schools in the country.  The school has developed into a leader in the field of education for the blind and partially sighted learner.  Braille Printers, nowadays Pioneer Printers was established to produce literature and learning material for the visually impaired.  In 1998 the school opened its doors to the specific learning-disabled learner. 

During the course of many years, many dedicated men and women were involved in the development of the education for blind learners.

 Past and present Principal(s)

  • Mr BJG de la Bat – first principal of “Het Doofstommen en Blinden Instituut”
  • Mr MJ Besselaar – first principal of the School for the Blind after separate schools for the two disabilities were established in 1905.
  • Dr PE Biesenbach – 1929
  • Prof Theo Pauw – 1961
  • Dr JH van der Poel – 1979
  • Dr PJ Botes – 1996
  • Mr PH Pettit – 2005
  • Mr PA Greyling (Acting Principal July 2006-2008)
  • Mr HF Mentz – 2009 till 2011

The school currently caters for learners with special educational needs in 3 focus groups: visually impaired learners, learners with learning barriers and the multiple disabled/deafblind learners.  The Institute is a programme of BADISA, a jointly ministered undertaking of the Dutch Reformed Church (Western and Southern Cape) and the Uniting Reformed Church of SA (Cape).  In 1991 the Institute for the Blind appointed its own Board of Control. The organization regards its overall vision to be “Equal opportunities for visually impaired persons”. Today, the Industries provide employment opportunities to over 160 visually impaired adults in six different factories. Various opportunities have been developed over the years by which the public can become involved and support the Institute, including being involved as a volunteer, purchasing their products (mattresses, cane-furniture), utilizing their services (audio magazines and –newspapers), making a bequest, becoming a supporter and enjoying a tax benefit, etc. 

 Vision, Mission and Objectives of the Organization


To provide Equal Opportunities for Visually Impaired Persons.


The mission of the Institute for the Blind is to empower persons who are blind, partially sighted or deaf blind, including persons with additional disabilities, by means of education, training, development and care towards a fulfilled life and complete citizenship.

 The main aims of the Institute are to:

  • provide accommodation and employment to visually impaired persons, depending on availability and in compliance with specific criteria;
  • employ and accommodate multi-handicapped visually impaired persons in a supportive living and working environment, depending on availability and in compliance with certain criteria;
  • improve the quality of life of frail older persons by providing accommodation
  • initiate the training of professional and non-professional staff involved with the visually impaired;
  • encourage community involvement at all levels
  • provide employment opportunities to the visually impaired and generate funds, through commercial ventures, though not for profit
  • initiate or participate in outreach programmes and supportive ventures connected to visual impairments to ensure integration into the community
  • promote co-operation with national and international associations for the visually impaired;
  • promote formal education, training and care to blind, partially sighted, deaf blind and multi-disabled scholars by assisting financially
  • contribute financially towards investigating career opportunities for visually impaired persons, providing applicable training (career development) and to undertake career placement
  • Contribute financially towards promoting literacy and enhancing the quality of life of persons with visual impairments through the production and distribution of literature in all the mediums accessible to the visually impaired.
  • Raise awareness throughout society including at family level, regarding blind, partially sighted and deaf blind persons and to foster respect for their rights and dignity
  • Promote awareness of the capabilities and contributions of blind, partially sighted and deaf blind persons
  • Promote positive perceptions and greater social awareness towards blind , partially sighted and deaf blind persons
  • promote recognition of the skills merits, abilities and contributions of persons with disabilities to the workplace and the labour market



About kieks

Who am I...? well, firstly, at 22 it's still not so easy to answer this supposedly simple question. I'm a different person today than I was a year, or even 6 months ago. Maybe tomorrow I fall in love, meet a new friend, be part of a miracle, experience a tradegy or listen to an inspirational song and see things differently than I do today... But at this moment in time, in a nutshell I would say that I'm completely content. What can you say about yourself that would make you more special, or any different than the person sitting next to you, except for your height, hair colour and shoe size..what makes ME different? extraordinary? unusual? exceptional? The answer lies deep, deep down to the furthest and yet unreached bottom of my soul - a place still waiting to be fully discovered, explored and exploited... the quest to find that piece of extraodinariness is a long and tough yourney of its own, for some (better) days the answer floats up to the surface and glows for a while in the life's sunlight...other days that same glistering confidence of yesterday seems to sink away to a place where it's light is almost impossible to see...About myself? Who am I? I am the girl who, inspite of stormy seas, believes that, by letting your extraordinariness float on the surface you see the light reflect on the faces of those who look at you...

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