In Kenya,Deafness is a source of shame for families and many parents don't know any Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) to enable them to communicate with their own children.Worse,it seen as punishment from God and parents are so embarrased and hide their children.You will find children will never say the light of day in a class.Poverty and prejudice mean deaf children and youth are often ignored and receive little support at school. Many people do not know how to interact with a deaf person - like how we may rely on lip reading, or good lighting and body language. This means that actively all the time,Deaf people are always fighting to understand and help others understand, which can be tiring.
According to the Kenya National Survey for Persons with Disabilities (NCAPD, 2008), about 4.6 percent of Kenyans experience some form of disability, and about 0.5 percent of Kenyans have some type of hearing impairment.In 2013, the Kenya Society for Deaf the Kenya Society for Deaf Children (2013) reported that out of 200,000 deaf children needing education only 8,000 were in school, A study by Kiaritha (2011) found that deaf students attending universities in Kenya make up 7.4% compared to 15.4% visually impaired and 77.2% physically handicapped. These findings indicate that parents of deaf and hard of hearing and the society generally have low expectations of deaf children regarding their educational potentials and career choices.
It is a sad fact that then nearly 90% of deaf individuals who finish their high school education, cannot effectively read and write, attain higher education or find meaningful employment. Consequently, a majority of the deaf living in Kenya experience poor socioeconomic outcomes. Based on these outcomes, the quality of deaf education in Kenya is indeed questionable.With this approach,we foresee Deaf children making a choice over hearing or deaf school.The KSL approach doesn't eliminate use of interpreters or Deaf schools,it will increase choices for Deaf people around school,choice of communication. Deaf diversity continues to be celebrated.
VSO Kenya’s vision is of a world without poverty and the mission is to bring people together to fight poverty. VSO Kenya is committed to fighting poverty through participatory approaches and engagement of key stakeholders as we believe people are the best agents of change and progress is only possible by working together. The International Citizen Service Deaf pilot engaged deaf youth from UK and Kenya in volunteering for development, to empower the deaf in Nandi and ultimately contributed towards enhancing integration of the deaf with the hearing people in Nandi.
The volunteering experiences have spurred us national volunteers to start KSL Clubs in hearing schools to tackle deaf exclusion.Our hypothesis is that Deaf Inclusion exists since speech dominates and hearing people arent aware of use of KSL. As such majority of hearing people aren’t aware about Deafness thus little interest in Deaf Culture.Evidently,KSL as a life skill necessary to build the relationship between the deaf community and the hearing community.We want to test this hypothesis through the KSL Clubs.Our dream is world where everyone uses KSL.Article 7(3) advocates promotion, development, research and use of Kenyan Sign Language, while Article 120 confers KSL as one of the three official languages of the Parliament.
From the prototyping,we realized that KSL club advocacy strategy may not work as stand alone approach in achieving Deaf inclusion.Inclusion is more complex and will require integrated collaborations.Stakeholders (parents, pupils, communities,policy makers,Ministry of education) need to be consulted and involved in the development of the KSL approach.Issue of child protection were eminent as most parents of Deaf children consider this as important.Existing cultural barriers play a big role to children even at tender ages.Inculcation of the positive attitudes will need to done both ways(children vs Parents).There should be awareness campaigns geared towards attitude change by hearing teachers and the hearing society at large towards deafness and language. This should involve significant changes in conceptions and role behavior.Deaf facilitators availability and capacity will need to be evaluated. Not all Deaf people who use KSL will be great facilitators.We will pilot in integrated schools since the hearing and Deaf children share the same compound.It was really inspiring to meet Hillary who grew up learning KSL from his Deaf brother.KSL will be a core approach and implemented parallel with other interventions.
Our dream stands-Imagine all children in primary and high school learning and using KSL as a language of choice!Imagine the First KSL university in Africa as well as the first Deaf Innovation Hub for Africa for Deaf people!Imagine most corporates learning and using KSL. Imagine Deaf youth accessing and enjoying more choice over what they study!A world where you are you and live your life purpose. Leave no one behind!