21 February 2013

Tanzania: ZOP Gives Hope to Deaf Children in Zanzibar

Zanzibar — THE majority of more than 3,500 deaf people in Zanzibar are children, who urgently need help and education. Unfortunately, most parents still hide the children because of their poor notion that the deaf cannot learn.

Mr Juma Abdurahman, chairperson of the Zanzibar Association for the Deaf (JUVIZA) says there are many deaf children still at home just because the parents have not taken the issue of education seriously.

"I think most parents with deaf children lack knowledge about the importance of educating their children with hearing impairment.

We need to increase awareness and encourage them to make sure that all children go to school," said Juma through his sign language expert. Juma's concerns are similar to the 'Zanzibar Outreach Programme (ZOP)' officers, who have decided to establish a 'School of the Deaf and Post-Hearing-Aid Rehabilitation Centre,' on the outskirts of Zanzibar municipality. The centre also known as 'ZOP academy' is now fully operational and is asking parents with deaf children to register their children free of charge so that children with hearing disability are helped to get at least basic education.

Zanzibar Outreach Programme (ZOP) is a Non- Governmental Organization founded in September 2006 by a group of Zanzibaris dedicated to improving the community's access to health care, clean water and education. The 'ZOP academy' or 'School of the Deaf and Post-Hearing-Aid Rehabilitation Centre,' was officially opened on Tuesday on February 12, 2013 by the Director of Secondary Education from Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, Ms Khadija Ali, who appealed to parents to use the opportunity.

"We need all children including those with disabilities in the islands to get education, to make our achievement of universal education a reality. We cannot boast of the achievement when many children with disabilities including the deaf have not attended school," Khadija said. The director said that her ministry is happy with the establishment of the ZOP academy and that the centre would help many deaf children in the islands.

She advised parents to make sure that their children are enrolled in the school. Dr Naufal Kassim Mohammed, ENT, HEAD & NECK surgeon at Mnazi Mmoja hospital, who is also the executive secretary of ZOP, says that despite the achievement in establishing the centre, there are still a number of challenges to overcome such "as lack of facilities, and capacity building for teachers."

"Fortunately we have started 2013 with dramatic changes to the School of the Deaf and Post-Hearing-Aid Rehabilitation Centre with a new school bus, thanks to the Dar es Salaam Goat Races Society, IMPACT and GOZA for the support," said Kassim. He said that ZOP has decided to transform the centre into a proper Nursery school with full registration, and that through consultation with the Inclusive Education Unit of Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, the school has started to implement the following developments:

It has been named the 'ZOP Academy,' and contains a nursery school. The school offers scholarships in vocational training on how to care for children with hearing problems. It has applied to be registered by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training and conducts refresher course workshop for its teachers with emphasis on how to teach and train special need children.

Dr Kassim says, "We are determined to rescue deaf children from life of misery. We want every deaf child to get education and enjoy their rights. We hope to succeed as a national centre of excellence for the deaf." Children of the age between 3 and 11 from across the islands are allowed to be registered.

He said the children are taught how to communicate and that the aim "of these activities is to increase knowledge for the deaf and improve their ability to communicate effectively with their deaf peers." Dr Naufali says ZOP wants to improve the life of deaf children in Zanzibar, but a shortage of specialist staff and funds may hamper the progress, as he encourages parents of deaf children to choose sending their children to the new school.

He said that another challenge to the new school with a capacity of caring for 30 children is shortage of teachers for the deaf. There is also a deficiency of skilled professionals. "We need to have skilled teachers to help deaf children." "I believe deaf schools are the best opportunity.

Children can play, mix-up, and see their colleagues. Let us not discriminate children with disability, they have the opportunity to grow up with talents," he said. What is deafness? Health experts explain a 'deaf' person as someone with a hearing loss. There are many causes of deafness. Some people are born deaf due to a hereditary condition, or had congenital problems such as those associated with rubella.

Others may become deaf as a result of injury, illness or exposure to excessive noise. The type of deafness or hearing loss, and the time in life that it developed, often has an impact on the person's communication style. Most deaf and hard of hearing people use a variety of communication methods, including sign language, and often several forms simultaneously.

A deaf student's experiences depend very much on the type of hearing loss they have, on their communication preferences, on their previous experience of deafness and on their relationship with both deaf and hearing culture. However, in an environment that takes little or no account of deafness a deaf person can feel isolated, confused and frustrated. Every deaf child is different.

It is important children understand that deaf children may experience different levels of hearing loss and may use different kinds of hearing aids to help them listen, but in Zanzibar many deaf children still lack hearing aids and even care. Zanzibar environment including schools, public offices, streets, and markets remain unfriendly to the people and children with hearing impairments, as activists press the government to bring changes and consider the rights of people with disability.

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