Friends: photo of pupil writing on the blackboard in Northern Malawi

Nelson says “I now have friends”

Deaf pupil Nelson tells us how his primary school in the Northern Region of Malawi has changed from a place where he felt shunned to a place where more deaf children have felt encouraged to enrol.

Nelson is 16 years old. Deaf children in Malawi may start primary school late and may be forced to repeat several years, because of a lack of family resources or their struggle to grasp speech and be accepted.

His school has taken part in Signal’s deaf awareness project with regional education provider CCAP.

“My name is Nelson and I am in Standard 5 [primary school spans Standards 1 to 8 in Malawi]. I live in a township in Mzuzu City which is about two kilometres away from my school.

“At first I used to hate school simply because I could not understand anything in class. It was just a matter of going to school to pass time. My fellow pupils used to laugh at me and I had no friends in school. My performance was poor and I did not see any point of being in school.

“Things changed a lot when my parents and I were taken for training in sign language by CCAP through the Signal project. I started communicating well with my parents at home and with teachers here at school. Teachers started to use some signs in class, which helped me understand concepts better. With the help of the Resource Centre [provides extra one-to-one support to enable deaf children to thrive in mainstream school], my performance in class improved a lot.

“I started to perform better than some students without hearing impairments. I also started taking part in school activities such as playing football. I now have friends in school, since more students with hearing impairments joined the school, and that made me feel that I am not the only one with a hearing problem.

“The biggest change for me is that I can now understand what the teacher says in class and I am able to do simple mathematics such as addition and subtraction, which I could not do for the past three years. I am a very happy person because I can now chat with learners who do not have hearing problems.”

How to tell Mum and Dad, “I love you”?

Friends: photo of deaf children signing in new school uniforms in ZambiaPupils at Zambia Deaf Youth and Women’s new pre-school and tuition centre for deaf children in Kitwe are pictured learning to sign “I love you” in Zambian Sign Language.

Signal was able to provide some school shoes and uniforms and classroom furniture and materials for the centre, thanks to a kind grant and a company donation.

“This was the first time for some children to have such shoes,” Frank, head of ZDYW, noted.

Pre-school education is important to help deaf children develop language and communication skills and self-esteem. This should enable them to enrol into primary school on more of an equal footing with their hearing classmates.

  • Marina Churm said:

    I work part-time for Signal in their Shrewsbury office in the UK. I was chatting with my 8 year old, Finn, over the weekend about how difficult it must be to learn anything or just communicate if you are deaf & nobody recognises that you are deaf let alone can communicate with you. Such lovely stories of change across all of the Signal projects & what a difference recognising a deaf child as an individual that deserves attention & love can make to that child, their family & indeed their whole community. Finn was very impressed!

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