Signal works in Malawi with education provider Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) to identify children with hearing impairments and other disabilities and support them into a positive learning environment.
We carry out training about disability and special educational needs with the children themselves, their families, teachers and village leaders, challenging negative beliefs about hearing loss.
Building on our work in the Northern Region, we have moved into the Central Region with renewed backing from Comic Relief. We are working in 70 mainstream primary schools in this rural area.
Matildah lives with a hearing impairment and is in grade seven in primary school. She and her teacher tell the story of how our training workshops have transformed her school life and ambitions.
“Life was hard at school before the inclusive education project. Peers used to call me all sorts of bad names and tormented me, as a result of me not hearing what they intended to communicate to me.
Teachers never bothered supporting me in class, and neither did they arrange remedial lessons to help me catch up with my classmates. I really felt humiliated and demolished.
Each time I came into school, everyone was unfriendly. I lived in a lonely world surrounded with people who did not value me as equal to them. Every day of school days was boring to me. I was at the point of leaving school when the inclusive education project came in.
I got encouraged following the two-day training, where I understood that education is my right. I regretted the day I lived in agony rather than fight for my rights at all angles.
I now report to teachers when I am called bad names and sidelined. I even join groups of my fellow peers though not invited.
I love school now. I will not leave school any more till I become a medical doctor, so that I help people facing similar problems of hearing loss and other disabilities. I am determined and will achieve it.”
“Matildah has several times demanded remedial lessons to be on par with other learners without disabilities. Unless you support her, she will not let you go.
The thing that has helped her most is the pro-activeness to associate with others. It does not matter whether friends have invited her or not, she is always involved and participates.
She has many times stood up to her peers for calling her bad names and, if she is unable to sort it out, she has always reported to me for support.
I would like to thank the inclusive education project for the lessons to everyone, particularly, children with disabilities. This is the first time since the establishments of our school and zone, perhaps even the district, of getting such lessons to children. Keep up the good work!”
Photographs: Matildah at her school in the Central Region of Malawi (top); CCAP project manager Thomas visiting a school we work with in the Central Region (bottom).