Education Philosophy
Home Up History of School Education Philosophy


Table of Contents


The physical structures are an important part of the Embangweni School for the Hard of Hearing, but they are only the skeleton surrounding the program.  The heart of the school lies in the dedication of staff and outsiders who are committed to providing education and an improved life for the hard of hearing children of northern Malawi.

When the first school for the hard of hearing was opened in Limbe at Montfort in 1968, its main objective was to teach the deaf child to speak.  This was felt to be of utmost importance so that the child would be able to communicate with the society in which he or she lived.  While this is very important, the emphasis on oral communication meant that the deaf education program had nothing to do with the national educational curriculum.  The children were taught using the “maternal reflective method” using a speech and language approach.  This objective was very broad and it was difficult to measure results; in addition in the working world employers look at academic qualifications and not just speech.    Severely deaf children have great difficulty obtaining clear speech; this decreases their ability to find jobs after graduation.

class_nkuku.jpg (8967 bytes)
Sign & Speech in Preschool 1

assembly.jpg (11117 bytes)
Bible Story during assembly time


When the Embangweni School for the Hard of Hearing was born, the staff formulated the educational goals to be achieved by the teachers and the children.  These goals reflected a growing sense that the whole child must be educated.  The suggested aims were:

To teach children academics like any other citizen so that they are able to read, write and understand the world in which they live.  This includes teaching of Math, English and Religion.

To introduce children to some skills that could be of help in their every day life after they leave school – carpentry, tailoring, knitting, tin smithing, weaving, etc.

Quite contrary to the approach other schools were using, Embangweni decided to use the “total communication” concept.  Total Communication caters to each individual child by using any and all tools available to help him learn.  This includes oral speech, sign language, finger spelling, gestures and speech reading.  While the staff was committed to this approach, they were frustrated by a lack of training in sign language.  Marion Medical Mission had donated books on American Sign Language, but without explanations and teaching for the staff they could not be fully utilized.  The reality of the school’s objective of using total communication was started in 1997 when a volunteer from the USA came to teach.  She did individual speech therapy with the children during the school day and provided teachers’ meetings for orientation to sign language and speech therapy tutorials. 

sign_tutoring.jpg (7886 bytes)
Sign language instruction for the staff

The staff quickly became excited about the possibilities of teaching using Total Communication and also realized that they must begin to establish a standard for Malawian deaf communication.   Malawian deaf society used the American alphabet and a few signs from the British system to come up with a local sign language alphabet which is now being used by a few of the deaf.  But most deaf adults use natural signs, which vary from one place to another.   The school is busy compiling a local sign language dictionary, which is intended to be used as a teaching reference.  Because the task is so new and so large, it will take a long time to finish.  In the meantime, more volunteers with training in deaf education and speech therapy are needed for advice and guidance on the compilation of materials.

The Embangweni School for the Hard of Hearing has made remarkable developments since it began and these extend far beyond the basic oral communication envisioned back in 1968 at Montfort.  At Embangweni, children now learn English and those who can’t speak communicate in signs.  They do well in skill areas and the general learning atmosphere is superb.  Using handbells donated by Jocelyn Logan and music training from Mrs. Poehlman, the children perform music at celebrations and at Sunday worship services.  This had never happened before in the history of Malawi deaf education and is demonstrating to the community that these children are indeed intelligent and talented!

bells.jpg (9684 bytes)
Students playing Handbells

mtonga2.jpg (10302 bytes)
Headmaster E.G. Mtonga


Headmaster E.G. Mtonga writes of the vision for Embangweni:

“The institution expects to have a high school where children will go for their education.  (It expects to) intensify technical work for self-employment, as lack of employment is a worldwide outcry.  With the help of God, Embangweni will be a model school for the NATION.”


32_208.jpg (14196 bytes)
Standard One students with visiting therapist

Starting in 1997, they have begun learning to use sign language with the students.  There is no Malawian sign language and it is felt inappropriate to simply adopt an American version.  The teachers are currently working on developing and documenting a Malawian sign language.