Our largest international programme takes place in Malawi in partnership with CCAP (Church of Central Africa Presbyterian – Synod of Livingstonia), which has worked in the field of education since 1875. It runs nursery, primary, secondary and special schools and teacher training and technical colleges, predominantly, in the rural areas of subsistence farming communities.
Together we work to provide children who are deaf or have hearing loss, or even other disabilities, with access to a quality and relevant primary education alongside their hearing classmates. This gives children who are often isolated by communication challenges and stigma the chance to participate fully in the life of their families and communities. We work with people of all faiths and none.
How we help
Primary classes in Malawi average 90 children, classroom resources and furniture are sparse, and teachers have little training to deal with pupils with special educational needs. When such factors combine with negative attitudes about deaf children’s ability to learn and their worth in the family and community, it is not surprising that these children have been failing to enter school or dropping out.
We work with these children, their families and carers, teachers and village leaders to change attitudes and responses to deafness. By lifting stigma, promoting positive role models, and equipping families and teachers with knowledge, skills and resources, we are seeing children who are deaf or have hearing loss thrive academically and socially in mainstream primary education for the first time.
Our programme with CCAP began in the Northern Region of Malawi and has now moved into the Central Region. In both regions people are extremely open to the new learning opportunities it brings.
- Over 21,000 people have been reached by our programme in Malawi.
- The proportion of children who are deaf or have hearing loss who drop out of primary school has fallen consistently in the areas where the programme has operated.
- The numbers of these children, and even children with other disabilities, who are enrolling in primary school continues to grow.
- The academic attainment of children who are deaf or have hearing loss has improved year-on-year and these children have progressed to the next primary school grade.
- These children report greater involvement and enjoyment in family and school life; teachers report increased enthusiasm for their work now they have the skills to teach all their pupils.
- Parents’ groups have become established, providing support to parents of newly identified deaf children. Income generating activities as diverse as a parents’ theatre group, fish farm and savings and loan scheme assist with the costs of their deaf children’s education.
- Village leaders actively seek out “hidden” children who are deaf or have hearing loss and encourage families to send these, and all children, to school.
- “Roaming” teachers have paid home visits to families of newly identified deaf children to support the children’s inclusion in education and foster communication skills at home.
- Ministry of Education representatives have attended all our teacher training sessions and provide support at the local level to ensure the programme is sustainable.
- Training sessions have been extended to secondary school teachers in a pilot project in the Northern Region and this will be continued in the Central Region.
Radio publicity about the programme reaches out to the rural areas and encourages inclusive education:
Signal’s work in Malawi is funded by grants from Comic Relief, trusts and foundations and individual donations.