An update from the Rev. Muhoro School for the Deaf, KenyaJuly 21, 2020
For more than 16years, AIHHP Council Member and former Chair Rob Davies has been providing support to pupils at the Rev. Muhoro School for the Deaf in Kenya. Supported by his wife Jessie, a native of the East African country, Rob and Jessie regularly visit the school and also coordinate the support received from the UK in terms of donations and equipment.
The school nestles in the foothills of Mount Kenya in Mukurewe-ini and receives very little state funding. Sometimes the teachers go unpaid for months and the students who attend all have to pay for their boarding, education, clothes and meals. Whilst the annual fee of £250 may seem small to us, for those with no income and living in a non-welfare country such as Kenya, it seems like an insurmountable mountain to climb. Sponsorship is gratefully received and goes a long, long way.
Like the rest of the world, the school has had to contend with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought additional challenges to an already difficult environment. The school was closed prematurely on 16th March following confirmation of the first case of coronavirus in the country. It was both a worrying and desperate situation given that the first term of 2020 was only three weeks away from completion. Staff and pupils did not fully understand the severity of the situation until they returned to their homes and local communities. It is now more than three months since they left the school.
The challenges experienced by the students depended on their home location and hearing loss severity but included:
- Minimal communication with teachers as a majority do so through sign language that is not often used in their local communities. Some complained of being shut out from updates on coronavirus except from the print media – although newspapers are rare in most areas. TV stations provide a limited space for sign language interpreters with no captioning.
- Though assignments were issued as they left for home, this was not sufficient for the prolonged school closure. A majority of the parents only have simple mobile phones that lack internet connectivity making e-learning difficult to implement. The Ministry of Education has various channels for e-learning but very few of the students follow the programs because of the lack of an accessible connection and also because a majority of the programs are audio/visual content without interpretations or subtitles.
- Those that benefit from hearing aids that have been donated over the years have faced difficulties in accessing batteries or servicing. The chargeable Phonak models will provide a solution to this but only a few have consulted the school for help since a majority live very remotely.
- The staff receive media reports that many Kenyan families have inadequate provisions due to the decreased economic activity currently being experienced across the country. Some of the school’s students are likely to be in this category, a situation that may affect them even when they report back to school.
In the coming months, the school will need to put in place support programs, once schools can reopen, in order to take care of all students that will have had problematic issues/experiences during this extended school break. These will include guidance/counselling, audiological, psychological, physiological and other activities that will help students readjust to school life.
Infrastructure wise, the school will have to plan to expand its current facilities in order to help decongest classrooms and dormitories to achieve the one metre minimum social distance. Water points will have to be installed in/outside all major school facilities for hand washing. A request has been made for a medical officer to be seconded to the school or a group of schools to handle emergencies and isolation cases should they arise. This will be part of the new normal.
Preliminary forecasts point to the Month of September for schools reopening and, despite the challenges that they face to be ready, the staff at Rev Muhoro School are looking forward to this time and being reunited with their students.
As usual, when Rob and Jessie have completed their work with students at the school, they then find the time to spend a few days with the local community and follow up from previous visits and on the most recent visit they also fitted some people with hearing aids for the first time. These clients had been tested earlier in the year and Rob then brought their new ear moulds with him.
One gentleman, Mzee, who is pictured above, was particularly pleased with the outcome and the pleasure on his face and his wife’s truly transmits their joy at being able to hear again.
If anyone is interested in finding out how they could help donate equipment or funding support to the school they should contact Rob Davies via firstname.lastname@example.org