Deaf children still denied access to secondary school

Sunday, 26 January 2003 00:00 Written by  Simon Mugenyi

Education for the deaf has been sidelined. While Uganda was the first country to have a school for the deaf, in 1959, in the whole of East And Central Africa, we are yet to have a single secondary school for the deaf.

Currently Kenya has more than 10 secondary schools for the deaf and many vocational schools.

Even as there was over 1,000 deaf pupils in primary seven, there are only two Uganda Examination Board (UNEB) centres for the deaf.

One is at the Uganda School for the Deaf in Ntinda, which had 14 PLE candidates two of who were from Masaka. The other school is Ngora Deaf School in Soroti, which had five candidates.

Other deaf primary schools, in Masaka, Mbarara, Masindi, Lira, extra, have no UNEB centres. Pupils from these schools sit their exams in ordinary schools.

Maurice Ssenyonga says that the education of the deaf has been marginalised for a long time. Ssenyonga is the the chairperson for the Uganda National Association for the Deaf (UNAD). Although he commends government for efforts to support education for children with special needs through UPE, he says that this has not helped the deaf child.

“There was no consideration for children with special needs, especially the deaf when planning for UPE. There are very few teachers who can use sign language yet there is no effort to train more teachers,” he says. The ministry of education (MoE) proposed units for the deaf children in selected ordinary schools. The teaching and learning would be done through an interpreter.

However, Ssenyonga says, deaf children need special education, because using interpreters is unreliable. According to Ssenyonga, the Education ministry told UNAD to follow up the issue of a secondary school for the deaf.

President Museveni in his 2001 campaign manifesto, said that there should be a secondary school for every special needs group.

A proposal was written, suggesting a school in the central region, Wakiso District, giving the mandate to look for the land to the Ministry of Education.

Ssenyonga says there has been no response from the ministry yet. The education commissioner for special needs, says there is no money yet.

“Parents have been asking me where we are taking their children. I tell them to wait,” he says. “Children ask me where to apply but I don’t know what to say to them. My heart is upset,” Ssenyonga adds.

Towards the end of last year the deaf community had dialogues which yielded a two-classroom secondary school for the deaf in Makerere, in January.

Ssenyonga says this was an initiative of the parents and others who have concern for the deaf.

They contributed money, looked for teachers trained them and started a school. The school has seven students and offers both sciences and arts.

According to the ministry of education, plans are underway to build one secondary school for the deaf.

The school, to cost over sh100m, will have a four-classroom block, offices and boarding section and will be a full-fledged secondary school, from s1 to s4, teaching all subjects like any other secondary school.

It is not yet clear where the school will be located. Government will support the school by providing salaries for the teaching and non-teaching staff, and buying teaching and learning aids.

The school for the deaf is included in the 2002-03 ministry budget.

For the moment, parents who are financially able take their deaf children to Kenya for secondary and vocational education.

Last year the Uganda Society for the Deaf started a vocational school at their headquarters in Mengo, next to UNAD. They’re over 80 students now.

Edmond Musoke, acting headmaster, Uganda School for the Deaf -Ntinda says for most deaf children, education stops at primary level.

Source: The New Vision