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There are an estimated 70,000 blind children in Indonesia, according to a recent study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. The researchers found that 60 percent of the children they studied did not have to go blind. Treatable conditions like measles, cataracts, and glaucoma too often lead to blindness.
Iyehezkiel Parudani lost his eyesight at age six from chicken pox. He now teaches English to blind and visually impaired students at the Pajajaran Special School in the city of Bandung.
"What I would like you to do now is listing some professional jobs...professions."
Iyehezkiel Parudani says learning English can help blind people feel better about themselves and find jobs.
"By learning English, they can be an English teacher. They can be an interpreter. They can be a translator, and also they can be a tourist guide."
Students read using Braille, a writing system in which letters are represented by a series of raised dots. To write, students use special tools: a slate and stylus.
He says blind people should not let their physical limitations affect their dreams. In 2008, the Ford Foundation gave him a two-year scholarship to study at the University of Texas. There, he earned a Master's degree in curriculum development. He wants his students to learn English so they too can study overseas.
"In the US everything is accessible. If I go to the university to study, everything is available—like E-book, Braille book. Here in Indonesia, you know, it's difficult to find a reference book in E-book or in Braille. We have to make it ourselves. But when I was in the US, all books, references I need are available in the library...I can easily move wherever I want because everything designed really accessible for people with blindness."
Eha Lestari was one of Iyehezkiel Parudani's star students. She is almost completely blind from an eye cataract she suffered when she was four years old. She says learning English has changed her life.
"I study English because I love English very much. I want to be an interpreter. It's one of my dreams so that's why I want to learn English very much...I want to be an interpreter because I want to go to the other countries and then I want to meet some people from around the world."
Eha Lestari traveled to San Francisco and Washington DC as part of the Indonesia-U.S. Youth Leadership Program. The trip had a major effect on her life. Listen to her speaking English just two years ago.
"I want. I want can speak English. I want to speak English. Yes. Very good."
Like her classmates, Eha loves to sing. The Pajajaran Special School is filled with extraordinary musicians. Here, music is part of daily life. Even the students who do not study English can sing the latest Western pop hits. The students worked on a special version of the classic American pop song "Stand By Me."
[Students singing] "Stand by me. Please stand, stand by me. Stand by me."
Iyehezkiel Parudani says the song has special meaning for the students.
"In this life, we need other person. You have to stand by me. Without you standing by me, I'm meaningless."
Eha Lestari plans to go to college and major in English. For now, she has some advice for other young people.
"Please use English every day. Don't be shy to speak English...If we can speak English, if we can play music, I think your future is good...is very good."