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Sat, 18 Jan 2020 05:39 GMT

Hearing-Impaired Students in Sudan Have Limited Access to Education

Lifestyle & Health

Mortada Ahmed

Sun, 17 Nov 2019 17:12 GMT

Nadia Fadl El-Mawla covers a distance of 60 km (37 miles) every day to send her three deaf children to a specialised school in Bahrai city, north the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, as the educational centre in her area is not fully equipped.

Despite her daily tedious quest for better education for her children in Khartoum, she was disappointed to find that the situation is not much better than in her city, which left her in great despair about her children's future as she has no other alternative.

However, El-Mawla seems to be much luckier than many other parents who failed to get their hearing-impaired children enrolled into schools at all.

Sayed Ahmed Abdallah, a resident of Kurdufan village, in South Sudan, could not provide his 17-year-old son with basic education, as there were no schools or resources for a deaf person to learn sign language.

"I feel heartbroken when I see my son spending his time either playing idly or taking care of the sheep, while his peers are going to and coming back from school," Sayed told 7DNews, "This is unfair, isn't it?"

He added that tens of children who suffer from loss of hearing in their district do not have access to schools, due to the lack of special education for the deaf community.

"Some of the deaf children joined normal schools, but their academic learning is nil in most cases," Sayed said.

El-Mawla and Sayed are like thousands of Sudanese parents who seek educational access for their deaf or hearing-impaired children.

Throughout history, Sudan has suffered from a deficiency in adequate educational resources provided for people with special needs, especially those with hearing impairment, as successive governments have not been able to solve this problem.

Experts in the field of education say that the capital Khartoum, where more than 8 million people live, has only four special education schools, and they even lack the necessary technology.

The first government that was formed after the ousting of General Omar al-Bashir's regime gave some hope for people with hearing disabilities. In a press conference this month, the Sudanese Minister of Education Mohamed Al-Amin Al-Tum made promises to make reforms in the educational system so as to include people with special needs.

El-Mawla told 7DNews of her struggle to educate her three deaf children saying that she used to take them on a daily basis to the Al-Amal Centre in Bahari city, 60 km away from home after she transferred them from the poorly equipped school in their district.

"One of my sons is a 7th grader, but when I brought him to A-Amal Centre, admission tests proved that at he was only at a second-grade level," she said. "But even this centre has some issues, like for example, it does not own the land it is built on and so we're always at a risk."

The Vice-Principal of Al-Amal educational centre, Seham Othman, said that her school was established in 1994 and that it is now one of the most prominent places specialised in educating children with hearing disabilities.

"Yet, we still don't own a land plot, so we keep moving from one building to another according to the civil government's decision, which affects the academic performance and sense of stability for students," Othman said.

She added that what is happening reflects the deterioration in the educational system provided for children with hearing difficulties and that this is a violation of their right to access education.

"Authorities promised to provide us with permanent premises, but nothing has been fulfilled," Othman said.

The challenges in the education process of students with hearing disabilities are even graver in Sudanese villages than in the capital, where there is a shortage of teachers and specialised schools, as well as a lack of awareness among some rural communities about the importance of educating children with special needs.

Othman Tahouna, a former teacher who is now the head of Abu Zaid Institute in Kurdfan region, said that Sudan lacks professional special education teachers.

"Teachers do not get the necessary training that qualifies them to deal with children with special needs and that enables them to drive information home to the students in an easy way.

"For two years, I have been calling on the Ministry of Education to provide us with a number of sign dictionaries, but it has never responded," Tahouna said, adding that these dictionaries are essential in order to prepare and explain the lessons in a way that students can grasp easily.

He said that the institute he runs has 16 students and only one teacher and no separate classrooms.

"It has been annexed to the region's primary high school," he said, stating that there should be a radical change in dealing with the issue of special education in order to solve it.

In an interview, education expert Eithar Abdallah, expressed her disappointment at the limited number of schools specialised in teaching people with hearing disabilities, as there are only four schools providing special education located in the nation’s capital.

"Teachers also do not get enough training on the sign language which helps them communicate with their students," Abdallah said.

She cited the lack of resources and books, which are essential for the educational process, saying "All these factors forecast a grim future for special education if the promises made by the transitional government are not put into action."

Translated by Wessam M. El-Mamlouk

Africa