Tesfa ("Hope" in local Amharic language) became blind at a very young age. She moved to Sabeta, where the Sabeta Primary School provides state-funded residential education for primary grades up to sixth.
Blind students attend class alongside their sighted peers. While they are afforded seats in the front row, the challenge of learning in a mixed environment remains. They must pass adapted versions of government mandated exams in order to continue with their education.
Blind high school students help each other navigate the rocky and uneven roads on their way home from school in Sabeta, Ethiopia.
A blind high schooler studies brail materials in the resource room at Sabeta High School, where blind students are the minority. Some of the text books are out of date or different versions of texts that sighted students use for the same classes.
Tesfa reaches for clean clothing to change her youngest child's soiled garments. In eighth grade she became pregnant. For a time, she continued her education with the help of friends who assisted in raising her first child, Alazar. When she became pregnant with her second child, the demands on her time were too great to continue schooling.
Three blind high school students make their way home at the end of the day. Tight knit groups of friends often live together and help each other navigate the difficulties of surviving in the sighted world. Friends share living expenses which often take up half of their 300 birr (about $16USD) monthly allowance. The students who receive additional family support refer to those who do not as "the hungry ones."
Tesfa feels her way to the compound's shared toilet. Many days this is the only time she spends outside of her small living space.
Tesfa sits on the edge of her bed and breast feeds her youngest child. She lives and spends most of her time in a one-room shack with a dirt floor. She shares a compound with several families who help her as they are able.
Blind students play soccer after class in nearby fields. The ball is wrapped in plastic in order to increase the noise it makes in the grass so that the blind children can locate it by sound. The majority of the students of the Sabeta Primary School for Special Needs are either blind or visually impaired. Some have multiple physical, emotional, and developmental disabilities.
Tesfa shares a moment with her two youngest children in their one-room shack. Tesfa became blind at a young age and struggles to support three of her four children. The other she was forced to send to an orphanage.
A blind student turns on a light for sighted visitors. Another student reported that his landlords regularly turn off their electricity because they are blind. Friends share living expenses which often take up half of their 300 birr (about $16USD) monthly allowance. Students say that learning is difficult in the two weeks prior to allowance disbursement because they are focused on finding ways to get food.