In January 2019, the children at the Deaf School we support in Nyabihu, Rwanda, began learning in the brand-new buildings. Your support helps to fund the school and its new buildings, which is run by our local partner EmCD (Empowering Children with Disabilities)!
Isobel Blakeley is a teacher who volunteered at the school through VSO (Voluntary Services Oversees) in 2014/15. Since returning to the UK Isobel has continued to keep in touch with Elie and the school, supporting them from afar and raising money for the new school buildings. Last November, Isobel returned to Nyabihu with a group made up of deaf teachers, an educational audiologist and a speech and language therapist. They delivered a range of training sessions to staff, including methods of teaching maths to children with limited hearing, early interventions and safeguarding. Read her blog below!
What a welcome we received when we got the school! It was 4 years ago when Louis, the founder of the school, first took us to this plot of land and told us of his dream of building a school here. Then, when we came 2 years ago, we saw the first building which had just been finished – one of the dormitories. Now, the children are nearly at the end of their first academic year here. It is with thanks to Chance for Childhood and the money raised by Team Abana and other donors that the school has been built.
During one of the sessions, the teachers were asked what difference the new buildings had made to the school. Their enthusiasm was overwhelming! They told us that before, when they were living at the old site, they would be taking 5 children a week to the local Health Centre, due to chest infections, stomach bugs and other illnesses. Now, they take just two children per term! We hadn’t predicted that!
The new school buildings feature space to play and keep fit, abundant water to wash themselves and their clothes, clean water by the toilets for hand washing, better toilet and washing facilities, a water filter for drinking water, light and airy dormitories, with mosquito nets on all the beds, light airy classrooms, covered walkways so everyone can still walk around the school without getting drenched when it rains. There is space for people to find a quiet spot if they need to or to hang out with a few friends and a beautiful environment just lifts everyone’s mood.
Bright and interesting classrooms, a painted seat, young tree saplings planted in painted tyres, stones for visitors to paint their names on. A little imagination and a little paint can work wonders!
It was very exciting for us to witness the work being done to provide pupils with access to vocational training on completion of their school studies. It is a vital element in preparing their pupils for life in the real world, which for deaf young people in Rwanda, is not easy. The school offering several choices of vocational training, visible places to work in the community as they develop their skills, and opportunities to earn money and so build up their capacity to become financially independent.
Training: the main reason for our visit
While four of the team delivered their training sessions to some of the teachers, three of us helped look after the 40 children who didn’t have classes because of the training. We introduced them to the toys and crayons that we had brought. The lack of a common language wasn’t too much of a problem! As long as you know the Rwandan sign for ‘toilet’, which we did!
A group of seven professionals joined together to make the two-week trip to Rwanda. The main aim was to deliver ‘professional development’ to the teachers. There is no facility for this to happen in country as the expertise is not yet available.
Our group consisted of 4 teachers of the Deaf, one of whom was also an Educational Audiologist, a Speech and Language therapist, a Maths teacher, and a long serving Classroom Assistant and experienced School Governor – now retired.
In conjunction with the Head teacher, Managers and teachers of the two schools, we had come up with a range of topics for the sessions. They covered areas such as Early Interventions, Assessment and Monitoring, Speech and Language, Hearing screening, Safeguarding Policy, Methods of teaching Maths to pupils with limited language, and Organisational Structures. We planned to have four and a half days of training at each of the two schools.
One of our team had brought some money she had collected from friends and colleagues before the trip and she asked the teachers at Nyabihu what could she buy for them with this money that would make the biggest difference to their everyday life at the school. We didn’t expect this answer! Umbrellas and Ponchos!
It rains very hard sometimes, and the walk to the local school takes 40 minutes! The children and teachers arrive frozen and drenched! ‘Our hands are so cold, that sometimes we cannot sign’, one teacher said!
One of the problems with ‘giving aid’ that people often bring up, is sustainability. The need to enable those being supported to learn to support themselves. This is really important, and we are so heartened by the response at Nyabihu. Even before we had left the Country, the Safeguarding training was being delivered to the teaching staff by the Head teachers and Managers!
In this picture (right), Elie, headteacher at the Deaf School, is training the parents of the children who have been given hearing aids, in hearing aid maintenance and care so that they can support their children during the school holidays. Here you see them using a stetoclip to listen into the sound that a hearing aid makes! What an experience for these adults from rural villages in Rwanda!
Elie told me: “Parents were so happy to get that training. They said it is so important to have the training on hearing aids because they will help their children to maintain them during the holidays. They were so curious about how the hearing aid functions. Some thought that hearing aids enable the user to hear as normal person, others asked themselves why some children wear two hearing aids others one.
Some parents, like the mother of one young boy, like the parent of said that her son used to be insulted and beaten after he didn’t more out of the way of bicycle riders as he couldn’t hear the bells. The hearing aid has made him feel safer!”
Former Chance for Childhood volunteer and teacher