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.
Sign & Speech in Preschool 1
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 schools 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 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 cant 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!
Students playing Handbells
Headmaster E.G. Mtonga
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.
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.