Overcoming isolation: photo of primary school children in Uganda

Overcoming isolation in rural Uganda

In partnership with Signhealth Uganda we are working to challenge negative attitudes towards deafness and hearing loss and to enable equal access to essential services like education and healthcare.

Our projects work with deaf and hearing impaired children, their families and carers, respected community leaders and schools.  Hundreds of people have been reached, but here Signhealth Uganda reports on the changes for just one child and his mother…

Overcoming isolation: photo of family in modest dwelling in UgandaA chance to belong

Meet eight-year-old Steven,* living with his parents in Gayaza C village, Masaka District, Central Uganda, and enrolled in his third year at primary school.  Steven was suffering from otitis media, an infection of the ear which, if left untreated, recurs frequently.  This is not just painful but can cause visible and oozing pus with an unpleasant-smelling discharge.

Steven’s mother wanted to share her story, following the family’s involvement with our project:

“Sincerely, I can’t express the happiness I have, seeing my child happy with no more isolation.  Eh!  Can you imagine my child is now clean with no stinking shirt and people can now sit near him?  

“You people, you can’t believe what I went through with my child!  During meals, the father would always chase him away because of the bad stench and the pus oozing out of his ears.

“This problem started at the age of three years when he started to spend sleepless nights complaining of pain in both ears.  Some herbs were applied by his grandmother, but all in vain. 

Overcoming isolation: photo of children and guardians in classroom in Uganda“On attending the sensitisation workshop about hearing impairment conducted by SignHealth Uganda at school, I realised this was a disease which required medical treatment.  I took Steven to a nearby clinic and was given drugs that gave him some relief. 

“The state of my child was so bad; he would always come back from school and complain how he was being treated.  He was so much neglected to the extent that some teachers didn’t even want to mark his books.  

“His fellow pupils didn’t want to get closer to him either.  To make matters worse, his own father would also chase him away, whenever he came closer to him, because of the bad stench caused by the pus.” 

Following the continuous sensitisation work, follow-up with teachers and home visits as well as interaction with the children, people’s attitudes started gradually changing.  They could now interact with Steven and the teachers also started marking his books.

Steven himself shared his positive experience:

“Ever since I got treatment for my ears, my shirt is now always clean, my books are clean, the children no longer keep away from me and I have got new friends like Ndawula and Kimera.  Those who used to run away from me and I would sit alone on the desk; now we sit and play together.  

Overcoming isolation: photo of smiling school children outdoors in Uganda“The teachers now love me and they even mark my books.  My father now can allow me to eat together with him and the other family members!”

The intervention has helped to keep Steven at school, since he is now accepted by both teachers and fellow pupils.  Previously, he almost dropped out of school as a result of the discrimination and stigma.  He continues to seek ongoing medical support and support from the focal teacher trained under our project.

Thanks to our donors Comic Relief for making such stories possible for children like Steven and many others.

*Name changed to protect individual’s identity

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