Rural Deaf Program
The ALDS has begun an outreach program to deaf children living in the rural districts surrounding Ambo. We traveled to various locations and meet with the children, their families and the officials at the local dept. of social affairs to inform them about the school, assess the situation of deaf children living in such districts and gauge if parents would send their child to such a school if a boarding facility was available.
Reality Of Being A Deaf Child Living In A Rural Village
The visits confirmed everything we had been told regarding the reality life for most rural Deaf children:
Failure Of Integrated Schooling
Some parents had enrolled their deaf child in the local school with little or no successful outcome for the deaf child.
Twenty Two New Students
Having learned about the potential the deaf school offered to their children many of the parents wanted to know if their child could enrol straight away. It was agreed that if they had relations living in Ambo willing to host their child during the school year, we would secure sponsorship to pay for the childs accommodation and education. We expected about 5 or 6 parents to take up the offer. However in one location alone 16 parents signed the form indicating they would like to bring their child to the school. That September twenty-two children from the rural districts enrolled at the school. This presented the ALDS with something of a challenge, but one they were more than delighted to accept.
The arrival of so many children highlighted how necessary the school is and how vital a boarding facility is to enable many more children benefit from this opportunity.
Outreach Program: A Sense Of Identity And Inclusion
Having visited the rural deaf children we were very concerned about the children who could not come to Ambo and who were living such lonely and isolated lives.
So we put together an outreach program and invited all of the children, their parents and the workers at the dept of social affairs to attend the school to participate in day of fun and games, deaf awareness training etc. The purpose was to give the deaf children a positive experience of being deaf, to meet other deaf children and Deaf role models. The parents were invited to engage in Deaf awareness training, be given an opportunity to discuss their expectations for their child, share their experiences of how their child is perceived and treated in the local district. That the workers at the the dept of social affairs would have an opportunity to witness what is possible when Deaf children are given the proper back up and resources and for them to return to their local areas and actively challenge peoples negative perceptions about deafness.
We organised five such‘Rural Deaf Days’. Over 50 deaf children, some traveling on buses for 3.5hrs came to the school with their parents and workers from social affairs. It proved to be a huge success for everyone.
It was obvious during the course of these visits that the mind-set of many of the parents had altered significantly and many were desperate for their child to attend the school. One parent told us that when he indicated to his son that they going on the bus to the school, that he packed a little bag thinking (maybe hoping) that he would be staying.
From a ‘needs assessment’ perspective, bringing the children and their parents to the school proved that there is a desperate need for a boarding facility in order to offer places in the school to these children. The parents have seen what is possible for their child and would dearly love their child to have such an opportunity. The children have begun to see themselves in a new light and were already packing bags in the hope that such a place will be available.
Expectations and Obligations
At the ALDS we have asked the question and now that we know the answer, we feel a real and urgent need to respond. Our visits to the rural districts to see the reality of life for deaf children. The visit of the rural deaf children to the school has created a sense of expectation for them and their parents. The EDP are committed to doing all we can to respond to this sense of expectation and give these children a chance at education. We hope you will join us in our endeavor.