(I will be successful!)
I’m only going to write a little about the lesson itself last Wednesday. The words “aeroplane” (ndege), “bus” (dala dala) and “car”(gari) were introduced, including the TSL. We made and decorated paper aeroplanes and had a flying competition; went onto the road side and counted with bottletops how many cars and dala dalas we saw; started to look at the concepts of big and small and how to compare and then finished off with a look through the TSL dictionary I’ve printed off for each of them. This was my favourite part of the day – just to see their excitement at receiving a book and then as they slowly started to realise it was ‘written’ in their language. The rest of the afternoon was lost to looking through and practising their signs with each other and with me. The older kids were there again but this time I decided to utilise them and get them helping the younger kids which seemed to work well.
After class came my meeting with the founder…
It was an interesting discussion. It’s easy to see where some of the lethargy and despondency come from. Previously there had been 9 teachers but many have left due to the lack of resources (as I mentioned many times, there is literally nothing) and they are now down to 3 teachers for 72 children… Attitudes of teachers here, even those in hearing schools is pretty laissez faire so even those 3 left for the deaf unit cannot always be relied upon to attend. this means many days the children are left with no input – no teaching, no communication, no stimulus, just left to spend time in those 2 rooms all day, bored and forgotten. On the topic of the artwork, he believed that the deaf children would not disrespect each other in that way and that it was in fact older children from a different school who use the room after the school is closed that would have destroyed everything. We have agreed that he will speak to the school and that once school is over the classrooms will now be locked. I stressed the importance of having visual aids up for everyone to learn with to which he replied, “they cannot hear; their eyes are their ears. It is through their eyes that they will learn” which actually gave me a bit of hope.
I mentioned that I would like to meet the parents and introduce myself and also be able to hand over the TSL dictionary to them, explain what it’s for and how the whole family can use it for communication. Raymond (the founder) seemed keen for this to happen and will confirm with me what date will be set up for the mini parents’ evening. The school also have a scheme where they go to the villages to meet the parents of their deaf students and ensure that they are taking good care of the children. This happens every Friday and sounds like a fantastic scheme so I’ve requested to go on this if possible.
Lastly, we talked about what the deaf unit needs. I keep forgetting to take a photo but to put it simply the whole school looks like Auschwitz, no joke. There are bars on the windows, leaking waste running through the middle of the grounds, craters in the floor and walls, holes in the roof, everything is grey… It’s where creativity and inspiration come to die. We discussed the unit and agreed that the floors need filling in – this will not cost much, just a couple of bags of cement. Second, we need enough tables and chairs for everyone to sit on. A suprisingly tall order when most furniture is handmade or of the plastic garden furniture variety (whoever came up with the design of that plastic chair – you know the one. Found on every balcony in every country – they must be raking it in!!). I’m currently contacting schools at the moment. Finally, resources – text books, teachers’ aids, exercise books, pencils, reference books. I’ve stressed repeatedly that any thing I give is for the deaf unit ONLY, not any other part of the school (oh, the story of the posters has come to an abrupt end – they were stolen from the headmaster’s office…) and the founder has agreed.
But what was sad that came out of the meeting was the possibility that the deaf unit may have to close. No resources and no teachers has meant that they feel it would be unfair to accept any more children and if the situation doesn’t change then they will only teach those already there and then close it down. Disappointing to hear, most definitely, but it will mean there is an even bigger need for something in Mwanza and I’m already investigating places to hold an after-school club should this occur. In the meantime, I think it’s important on focusing on keeping the unit open and attracting volunteers and teachers to come.
So that was Wednesday. I daren’t be hopeful just yet but now I have a list of things to remind and badger the teachers about. First things first – fundraising for the chairs and cement…
If you’d like to support the project and give a donation to enable me to buy chairs, desks, textbooks, etc, then please go to my just giving account below. Thank you x