By Peter Mount CBE and Sebastian Waiswa, Executive Director, Jinja Organisation of Parents with Deaf Children (JOPDC).
The charity, Helping Uganda Schools (HUGS), started 25 years ago. It funds the building of schools and sponsors young adults to university level. Education empowers, enhances lives and gives prosperity to countries. Over the years there has been increasing awareness of the plight of children with sensory problems, especially hearing loss and deafness.
Eight years ago, Sebastian Waiswa who is the parent of a deaf child started the ‘Jinja Organisation of Parents of Deaf Children’ (JOPDC) with the aim of supporting and raising awareness of parents with children who have a need and identifying educational opportunities for them. His role is to travel to outlying villages and seek out children with hearing loss. Over the years, HUGS has paid for the schooling for some of these children.
“In Uganda most parents/caregivers have little or no knowledge of early identification and how to manage hearing loss in their children, the causes of which can sometimes be treated. Unfortunately, because of lack of resources, many children are not helped. As a result, many children with hearing loss are rejected by their parents and are deprived of basic needs in life like food, medical care, clothing and socialisation. Some parents don’t take their children outside the home as they are ashamed of introducing them to friends and relations. Some parents take their children to the Hearing Screening Camps but, although given hearing aids, there is no significant improvement as the parents/caregivers are not educated on how these devices work and they are often unable to replace the batteries”. Sebastian Waiswa
How can we make things better?
1. Newborn hearing screening and early access to amplification.
2. Raise awareness raising of the causes and signs of hearing loss, and preventative measures.
3. Giving free or highly subsidised and quality hearing aids to those who urgently need them.
4. Support training programmes that promote learning of sign language for the prelingually deaf and their families/communities.
5. Provide school places which cater for the needs of deaf children.
6. Provide a specialist school with teachers trained in the needs and teaching methods for children with hearing loss and deafness. (i.e. St Francis de Sales).
7. Further Education Training for teachers to develop and enhance their teaching skills for children who have hearing loss and deafness.
8. Clinical Space within the new school where children’s hearing (and sight) can be assessed regularly and pathways for treatment identified.
The New School
HUGS is currently helping Sebastian by funding a new school in Jinja, ‘St Francis de Sales’ Patron Saint of the deaf person. The new school will accommodate up to 90 children with sensory needs. It will be a small expertly run school which will provide early years education and care for children so they can be ready for mainstream schooling. The school will also have a Clinical Space for hearing and eyecare reviews, and a meeting facility for JOPDC. Ten years ago, HUGS funded a school in Fort Portal for children with special needs: this school has become a shining example of how children can flourish with dedicated and motivated staff.
HUGS urgently need funds to complete the new school and will be very grateful for any donations. This year they will be completing a sponsored virtual cycle from Manchester to Kampala, Uganda. The fundraising links are below.