Kenya Society for Deaf Children (KSDC)
The International Deaf Children's Society
Dandora Deaf Group
Nairobi Familiy Support Services
KSDC received a one-year funding from the IDCS Small Grants Programme (SGP) for a project which focused on training families in Kenyan Sign Language. The project involved over 100 parents from five urban areas.
This case study focuses on a group of parents in Korogocho, an area, which is home to 150,000 people and is considered one of the most densely populated and unstable slums of Nairobi. KSDC faced numerous challenges in reaching parents in this area and many parents were initially unwilling to get involved in the classes. However at the end of the project there were around 20 parents who regularly attended meetings over a three-month period. Attendance was not totally constant due to the difficulties families face in making a living and challenges posed by poverty and HIV/AIDS.
The improvements in family communication that they experienced and the information and support that KSDC offered, encouraged parents to form an organised group. The group aimed to improve access to education for their children and also start a savings scheme.
This project involved KSDC in a new way of working. Where previously, KSDC had focused strongly on the provision of services to deaf children and their families, through the construction of schools, provision of subsidised hearing aids and the development of information leaflets, this project moved towards a more community based style of work
Initially the parents in Korogocho were unwilling to spend time coming to meetings and learning Sign Language. Many of them work in the informal sector, felt that their children needed to learn, not them and found it difficult to commit the time to this activity.
IDENTIFYING AND MOTIVATING PARENTS
The existence of a community based programme run by the Catholic Church in Korogocho slum meant that KSDC was able to work with the existing community workers to identify and communicate with the parents of deaf children in the community. However the initial invitations to parents for Sign Language classes did not meet with success. The parents were very reluctant to attend and the turnout at the first few meetings was poor.
Parents were happy for their children to attend the informal school run by the community based programme and did not understand what they would gain from participating in meetings. Nevertheless, when questioned most parents acknowledged that their ability to communicate with their own children was limited.
The strategy used by KSDC and the community based programme to encourage parents had various strands:
* An introductory meeting in a hotel outside of Korogocho was organised. Food was provided and parents were invited to attend. The purpose of this meeting was to use the pleasant environment as a motivation to encourage parents to think about how learning sign language could improve family communication and what else KSDC could offer in terms of referrals to schools, and government audiology services. Although this exercise had a financial cost, it did attracted a relatively large number of parents and was a turning point in parents’ attitudes.
* Though this attracted parents for the “wrong” reasons – the meeting itself provided a space for parents to become aware of the “right” reasons. Presentations from active parents of deaf children from other areas of Nairobi were a key part of the workshop. It was also made clear that this meeting was a one-off opportunity and that the project would be run within the slum and would require commitment and self-motivation from the parents.
* KSDC organised a vacation playgroup alongside the classes so that the deaf children and their siblings could learn KSL and access learning and play opportunities outside of school time and alongside the classes for parents. A young deaf woman from Korogocho was employed part time to run the play group which happened alongside the Sign Language classes.
* Parents, themselves decided on the best days and times for training sessions and this was kept flexible. This helped parents to attend more regularly.
LEARNING SIGN LANGUAGE
The programme made good use of an existing Deaf people’s organisation – the Dandora Deaf Group, to provide the trainers for Sign Language classes for parents. This also gave parents an opportunity to meet deaf role models as well as learn Sign Language from a native user of the language.
The training focused on learning language that was useful for the families and on revision and repititon. However most families felt that 3 months was not a long enough time to learn and would have preferred the lessons to last longer.
However one drawback was that the young deaf trainers used English as their main written language, which they had learnt at schools for the deaf. Parents requested written information in Kiswahili as they were mostly not able to read or understand English. A trainer / translator with spoken Kiswahili would have improved communication in the classes.
Nevertheless achieving a level of communciation with their children that they had not previously had changed parents' opinions about their deaf children.
BEYOND SIGN LANGUAGE - BECOMING A GROUP
Towards the end of the initial three months training, the parents’ attending meetings had formed relationships with each other. As the self help movement is relatively widespread most families knew about the activities of other self help groups in their area and felt that this was something which they could also be a part of. At the same time, KSDC was keen to maintain links with a group of parents who could act as a point of contact in the slum. Through this group, KSDC would be able to deliver other services such as subsidised hearing aids, school referrals, sponsorship links etc. They were also, therefore, keen to support the group to become a more sustainable entity.
The members agreed to contribute around KSH 100 per month towards a small savings scheme, which helps they agreed not to draw on until significant amounts had been saved. KSDC were able to provide a top-up amount of KSH20,000, which gave the group encouragement and a motivation to continue.
During the time we were being mobilised, we had no idea that it would become a reality to communicate with our own children…we can now basically talk to them, understand their problems, help them with homework, know when they are sick and send them to shops and markets…As parents living in Korogocho slums we have started a self help group…the schools for deaf children are far, some are 400kms from Nairobi and boarding and transport is expensive. We want to support KSDC in initiatives that promote the need for deaf units or a school for deaf children in Nairobi. Mother of a deaf child
KSDC also plan to link the groups with other sources of support such as funding from the Ministry of Youth for community groups and microfinance programmes targeted at women’s groups.
* Involving younger siblings in the playgroup or older siblings in the class gave families more incentive and opportunity to practice signing at home.
Giving parents the opportunity to meet deaf adults who worked in the playgroup and as Sign Language trainers gave another perspective on the capabilities of deaf people and raised aspirations for their children.
* The Dandora Deaf Group had learnt English at their residential school, whilst the parents would have benefited from a Swahili language interpreter / trainer.
* It would have been useful to include information about other topics – such s education, causes of deafness as well as Sign Language training.
* A flexible curriculum was used which suited the parents, many of whom had only basic education. Visual training materials or materials in Swahili might have supported the learning process.
* The project focused on quantity of parents rather than quality of training - and some families felt that duration of training was too short and the level of skills learnt too low. More funding, and a better training package for trainers would help this.
* A more effective evaluation mechanism for parents' signing ability would help demonstrate the effectiveness of the project to funders and others.
* Organising opportunities for parent groups in different areas of Nairobi to meet each other and discuss their plans for the future would have been a motivation and source of ideas.
* Parents of young adults really want support in helping their children get access to petty business opportunities or employment.