History of Council for the Blind
The Zimbabwe Council for the Blind was founded in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, in 1955 with the assistance of the British Empire Society for the Blind, later to be known as the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind, now Sight Savers International. Sir John Wilson, the then Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind recommended the co-ordination of voluntary organisations concerned with blindness. From this was born the Co-ordinating Committee for the Blind Welfare - the progenitor of the present Council for the Blind.
The focus of this “co-ordinating committee” then was on the prevention of blindness. Its involvement in education of the blind was minimal.It was during their operations to prevent blindness that the committee “discovered” many more blind children of school-going age. This led to the concept of open education where blind children are integrated in school together with their sighted counterparts.
At first the activities of the committee were confined to Matabeleland, but these were gradually extended, first to the Midlands, then to other provinces. The geographical expansion was accompanied by an extension of activities to include the present four major fields:
The prevention and eradication of blindness. This was to be achieved through the Council’s mobile eye units, in an outreach programme offering primary eye care and performing minor ophthalmic operations in all provinces;
Spectacle and eye drop production. Workshops were established in several provinces to produce spectacles and eye drops for a variety of eye ailments at affordable prices for the lower income groups;
Open Education. Resource centres in primary and secondary schools to facilitate the integrated education of the blind and visually handicapped with normally sighted children – a programme, which, despite the best efforts of Government and Council, and generous funding by a few doctors, falls far short of the needs of 10 000 school children;
The rehabilitation programme. It was inevitable that the education activities would reach the need to cater for the visually impaired, too old to be in school or unemployed. Indeed the rehabilitation department fell under the education subcommittee.
The Council’s steadily growing programmes have been accompanied by increasing administrative and infrastructural needs, and a growth in staff establishment from the original half a dozen to the present complement of well over 60.
At its inception, the Council was poorly housed, but the 40th anniversary of the Council coincided with the opening of a new headquarters and workshops in a spacious area of metropolitan Bulawayo.
Council for the Blind Headquarters, 2012
As we look back to 62 years of service to the Blind and Visually Handicapped, we are keenly aware that none of our achievements would have been possible without the strong support of Government and such generous donors as the Beit Trust, the Christoffel Blinden Mission, the Lions Clubs of the Netherlands and Zimbabwe, Sight Savers International, the Swiss Foundation and many others too numerous to mention. We certainly need to mention the tremendous contributions of all members of the Council, who, like the founders, are all concerned, and caring people, and a dedicated Director and Staff for their selfless service to the Council and the people of Zimbabwe.