A place where miracles happen
“Children are the leaving messages
we send to a time we will not see.”
— John F. Kennedy
My story with ZOP School for the Deaf started in the summer of 2018 in the framework of an internship at local NGO, Zanzibar Outreach Program. I still remember that hot day in July when I visited the school for the first time; the day that these 30 kids took a special place in my heart forever…
In 2008 ZOP, in collaboration with researches from Oxford University, organized a Campaign for Hearing Loss Reduction. As a result, they found that there was a high amount of children with hearing problems. In most cases, children could not receive the necessary help and remained deaf for the rest of their lives. They could not get proper education. These young beautiful souls were deprived of their own future. In order to help children with hearing problems and give them a chance for a better life and a prosperous future, Zanzibar Outreach Program established the School for the Deaf program. The main goal of the school is to prepare children for ordinary school, so they can get equal education as other children of their age. Despite the fact that it took several years, the result is worth it. In 2012 the place where miracles happen, opened its door to first students.
The school collaborates with ENT UNIT Hospital Mnazi Mmoja and educates any child who has been diagnosed with deafness and who is equipped with a hearing aid. The hearing aid is a necessary tool for kids to be able to start speaking. However, it is also a big challenge for them. Since it is quite expensive, the school pays half the price and the rest is covered by the parents. Unfortunately, often, parents cannot afford to pay their half.
ZOP students range between 3 to 12 years old. They are so small but already so hard-working. To be sure those kids can come to school, every morning and afternoon a school bus drives around the island and brings them to school and back home. One journey takes 3 hours. 3 HOURS they spend in the bus (I know it for sure, I did it once, and believe me, with such a heat it is particularly hard). In school there are 6 nursery trained teachers waiting for them. Most of the children couldn’t make any sound when they first came to the school; but with the teachers’ help, by playing, drawing, coloring or painting, they progress a lot.
The educational program is approved by the Ministry of Education and adapted to the needs of the children with hearing problems. There are three groups: KG 1, KG 2 and KG 3; so after they graduate from ZOP School, students are prepared to go to the ordinary school for Standard 1 level. KG 1 is for smallest ones; in this group kids mostly learn by playing: they draw and do crafts. In this way they start to learn letters and already try to write. In KG 2, students are taught how to write and read letters; and, they start learning Swahili sight language. In KG 3, they already know how to write letters and sign them. Each student can write his/her name and sign it; and, make some general words, such as mother, father, sister, etc. They’re not just signing some words, most importantly, they can pronounce them! Those kids, who had a hearing aid since baby age, are already talking. In some cases, a kid may need more time, so, he or she stays in KG 3 longer.
The teacher’s team treats all students carefully and with qualitative attention, so each kid gets necessary help. Even after graduation, the school and former student stay in touch; the school’s administration follows every child. Besides classes, students also do other activities. Three times a year they have outside trips; they go to local museums, different historical places and national parks. They explore the world starting from their home island.
What I like the most is ZOP’s approach, no child feels different, no child is left behind. Despite all difficulties, lack of material and human resources: the school is sponsored purely by ZOP Family and teachers are working for free. It is such a pleasure to come back after 5 months and see these happy eyes and shiny smiles, to see how they’ve progressed. Some students already graduated and started their journey in ordinary school; others improved their skills and succeed a lot. This time I came back to Zanzibar with good news: the Geneva School of Diplomacy organized an event and raised funds to help these little angels. Thanks to joint efforts of students, management and academic team, alumni and GSD friends, we could raise funds to cover one year rent of the school building.
This is the real example that we all, each one of us, can contribute to better world and help real people to solve real problems. You do not have to change your lifestyle or do something incredible, just listen to your heart and give your hand to the needy. And remember, there is a place where miracles happen, and YOU can be a part of it!
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