Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Blind English teacher’s triumphant journey to discover her purpose

Blind English teacher’s triumphant journey to discover her purpose

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Try Ratany receives a graduation certification from Hun Manet in September. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Blind English teacher’s triumphant journey to discover her purpose

At the age of three, Try Ratany lost her sight due to complications from a case of measles.

Born into a poor peasant family, it seemed that any hopes of a productive life were over before they even began. All of that changed for her at the age of ten, when an NGO enrolled her into a special programme which taught the Cambodian national curriculum to the blind.

Ratany told the Post that she was the fourth of five children in her family, who farmed in Kampong Russey Leu village of Koh Sotin district’s Kampong Reap commune in Kampong Cham province. Her mother was a homemaker, leaving her father as the sole breadwinner.

Her family was unable to afford special classes for her, so she had resigned herself to missing out on an education when Krousar Thmey – Khmer for new family – invited her to study at their Kampong Cham town school.

“Even though I was blind, I wanted to go to school. I wanted to be literate like my elder brothers. I was very happy when they invited me to study with them,” she said.

She explained that before starting the state curriculum, the students at the school had to master the Braille writing system. Braille uses a series of raised dots on paper to allow the blind to “read” with their fingertips. The school also enrolled deaf students, who were taught to communicate in sign language.

Ratany said that the blind and deaf students were able to act as one another’s eyes and ears and assist each other while they lived together at the organisation. Initially, even something as simple as walking to the bathroom required someone’s help, but once she learnt about the layout of the school and living spaces, she was more independent.

By the time she graduated from grade 12 in 2015, she was even preparing herself food.

After graduating from high school, she received a scholarship to Kampong Cham’s University of Management and Economics, where she studied English literature.

As the only blind student in her classes, she faced new difficulties. Her lecturers were talented instructors, but were trained to teach sighted students.

“I tried to follow the teachers, but most of the information they were presenting was written on a board or delivered via a power point presentation. In the end, I had to record everything that was said and transcribe it when I arrived home each night. Otherwise I would not have been able to keep up with the other students,” she said.

She added that she used a laptop equipped with special software to prepare her assignments, and took her exams in the classroom with her fellow students, albeit with the assistance of technology.

When it came to group projects, she was most often called upon to make suggestions, while someone else would write down the group’s ideas.

During her academic career, the cost of accommodation and food, along with travel expenses were a heavy burden on her family. She was fortunate that her tuition fees were paid by commander of the army Hun Manet, saying that she would likely have never graduated if her family’s meagre earnings from their farm had to cover the expense.

“If my father had a successful harvest, then I was able to attend school. Of course, if the harvest was poor one year, we all had to tighten our belts,” she said.

Despite her difficulties, Ratany received her Bachelor’s degree in September this year, and can write and speak fluent English.

She is now employed as an English teacher at a special education high school in Kampong Cham town, where she teaches around ten blind students.

She said that she had some difficulties transitioning from student to teacher, but the school provided access to plenty of additional training. It helps that she has a very accurate understanding of the challenges that her students face, having overcome them herself.

When it comes to her life outside the classroom, she uses voice recognition software and uses her smart phone just as often as a sighted person. She also regularly uses YouTube and Facebook to learn new things and communicate with her friends.

MOST VIEWED

  • Research key to Kanitha’s rep for expertise

    Sok Kanitha is used to weighing in on controversial issues using a confident approach that signals expertise and authority, and a recent video she made was no exception. Her “Episode 342: The History of NATO” video went live on January 16, 2023 and immediately shot to 30,000 likes and 3,500

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Knockout! Kun Khmer replaces ‘Muay’ for Phnom Penh Games

    Cambodia has decided to officially remove the word Muay from the programme of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2023 in May. “Kun Khmer” will instead be used to represent the Southeast Asian sport of kickboxing, in accordance with the wishes of the Cambodian people. Vath

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • New int’l airport nearly half complete as travel industry returns to life

    Construction of a new airport that is slated to serve the capital has passed the 43 per cent completion mark, raising prospects for a proper recovery in the civil aviation and tourism sectors as international travellers return to the Kingdom in increasingly large numbers. The figure

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,