In Uganda, Deaf people are referred to as ‘Kasiru’, meaning fool or stupid and parents often don’t have the support in understanding their needs or their rights to an education. They are often thought of as a curse, sinners, a waste of a life or people without use and are outcasts in their communities. Unfortunately, many Ugandans believe that educating a Deaf child is a waste of money, time, and resources. Many families fear showing their Deaf children in public and as a result Deaf children are often hidden in houses and suffer from isolation.
Boanerges Deaf Initiative is a charitable organisation, set up in Kampala, Uganda, to provide opportunities for Deaf children and young people, who would otherwise have no access to education and training. Many children arrive at the school, without language or communication at the ages of eight or nine and beyond.
I have been working with the school over the past two years, providing materials for the teachers to use with the pupils, as their resources are very limited and access to visual materials, which are culturally specific, are impossible to obtain. I had used Communicate InPrint extensively in my work environment and purchased it for home use in order to support the school at Boanerges Deaf Initiative.
When the children arrive at the school, they are exposed to Ugandan Sign Language, giving them the opportunity to begin to learn to communicate. The teachers are using the resources, made using Communicate InPrint, in every grade, throughout the school to support the children’s language development, understanding and reading. The flexibility of the programme means the symbols and pictures can be tailor made for their community, reflecting the life and the culture as they know it.
The initial project started with over 1,000 common words – I have now been able to expand it to topics in Maths and Science, early reading activities, story packs and a range of educational games to support their learning.
For the future I would like to purchase Communicate InPrint for the teachers at Boanerges Deaf Initiative and have the opportunity to visit the school and train the staff so they can become self-sufficient. Before this can happen, they need the funding for a computer and printer, but where resources are so limited, staff have to prioritise food, clothes and medicines and work with the limited teaching resources available.
For the moment, the children have a community in which to feel valued and safe, learn to communicate and the opportunity to an education otherwise barred from them. Knowing the small difference the materials have made to the lives of the pupils continues to motivate me, despite the thousands of miles between us.
Lynne Awbery, Teacher of the Deaf
Redbridge Service for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children