During the two days at the Zanzibar Outreach Programme, I had the pleasure to witness the work of the teachers and the brightness of the children. I went a first time on the 5th of July and a second time on the 8th of July.
My first remark is that even if they have a hard time living with their disability, the students are all smiles and curiosity. This might sound as a detail but it means they do not feel different: they do not feel the weight of their handicap. This is true between them and the teachers but also with strangers, as me.
My first attempt to speak with them was hard because I don’t know sign language, nor Swahili but, eventually, I found a way to play with them.
At some point, I also tried to show them how to do origamis. I think they were happy about it and found it funny. Additionally, they actively participated in the social media content creation. It was heart-warming to see them laughing and playing in such peace. They were really at ease with one another and their environment. The children don’t look like or act as if they were struggling, which is an encouraging sign of their comfort.
I appreciated the fact that they are separated in levels and are in small groups, surrounded by a lot of people taking care of them. Be that as it may, I was shown that one student got a private lesson since she is quite advanced in comparison to her classmates. The aim is to push her to integrate a classic school.
This mirrors a will to focus at best on their specificities and capacities. I am stressing the specificity of each child because I could see that most of them, at my positive surprise, were understanding when I was speaking slowly English or trying to speak Swahili. However, they struggled to answer me back. This is the reason why, in a second time, I also talked with the teacher, mainly through a translator, to ask what they would need help with. The main answer was English, to which I answered I could help them with it, so they could be able, in the future, to teach it to the kids.
I was also told that one of the main difficulties is that most of them don’t get to keep their hearing device when they leave school. Therefore, their training is interrupted. In this regard, I thought I could maybe help to create an explanatory document on how to handle the hearing device on daily basis and also add the reasons it is important for the children to always have it on. My opinion was that it would give the reassurance and the understanding to the parents to invest in a hearing device and push their children to always have it on, even outside of the academy. My aim was to produce a paper in English and translate it in Swahili with the help of a fluent speaker.
Nevertheless, beforehand I wanted to understand the main difficulties of the parents, which do not allow the students to continue their hearing training outside of ZOP academy. As a consequence, I asked the teachers directly, if according to them, such a document, in Swahili, would be useful.
The answers of the teachers were negative. They stated that it wouldn’t help since the parents know it is important but cannot afford to buy the hearing device. In addition, the conditions of life make it almost impossible to take care of it. In conclusion, I still wonder what could be constructively achieved to help the students have a continuous hearing training when the school is closed.
Moreover, it was interesting to witness, on Tuesday, the meeting the teachers and Ahmad had. Even if I didn’t understand much, it was thought-provoking to see such an approach. In my opinion, it is very constructive to take the time to discuss with them and have their input every week. In such manner it is clear that the kids are followed with continuity.
Finally, outside of the academy we went to Makunduchi, at the district commissioner’s office to meet with the village community leaders. Ahmad tried to convince them of the benefits of the breast cancer mobile camp. I watched the dialog, which made me understand the diplomatic side of volunteering. One, in order to conduct its work, even if it is to help, has to constantly argue and take in account the cultural particularities and divergences of the people that seek for the support of the NGOs. For instance, in Makunduchi, Ahmad had to face opposition from old leaders, which were defiant of modern medicine, as the fights between the different communities whom didn’t not agree, at first, on the location of the mobile camp. Here one has to smartly address this people and be ready to adapt. It taught me that willing to help and having the means is never enough. It also taught me to always consider the differences and lack of knowledge, as the importance to modify one’s discourse according to the characteristics of the people listening. It was extremely interesting to look at the dynamics surrounding the organization of the mobile camp on breast cancer. Misinformation or noninformation on breast cancer is a European issue too. This shows ZOP’s advancement on the matter.
To conclude, I was impressed by the great work which has been done and is being done for ZOP’s academy deaf children. It is impressive since from what I understood, in the past, they were hidden in houses and were given no chances of education.
I am grateful I was able to witness different dynamics and characteristics of ZOP’s work inside the academy and outside.
I have only been twice to the school since I arrived Monday. Therefore, I look forward in learning and witnessing more. After more experience here I will gladly write another report, which will for sure be richer in information and include smarter considerations.
Some of my ideas and observations might not be accurate but I am curious to learn more about it all and see how I can help, especially in finding ways to communicate the children’s needs outside of school.
I also had a look at the social media pages and I saw that it was already quite informative. Nevertheless, it could be interesting to keep it alive on ZOP’s daily work. This is why on Friday, the 8th of July, I updated the stories with some content about the school and the children. Social media pages reach a lot of people if a lot of content is created on daily basis. I will gladly continue to deal with it, if I am allowed, for the duration of my stay.