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International Youth Day

11 August 2019

Today (12 August), the world celebrates International Youth Day and this year’s theme, ‘Transforming Education’, highlights efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible for all youth.

Sense International has been promoting and campaigning for inclusive education for children with deafblindness/ multi-sensory impairment (MSI) for the last 25 years and is currently working with Ministries of Education in eight countries - Peru, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Romania.

Sense International works on the basis that each child with deafblindness / MSI needs an individual education plan tailored to their abilities to enable them to reach their potential.  In East Africa Sense International often recommends a two-step approach, starting with home-based education, ahead of supporting children to join local ‘mainstream’ schools. Recent independent research has shown that the approach is effective. However, for others, learning in a deafblind unit may give them the best start, and a special school may be the best route for them.

Case study: Anthony from Kenya

Now a jovial 16-year old, Anthony was seven when his family were connected with Sense International (SI) Kenya. Born prematurely and with deafblindness, Anthony was four by the time he was able to walk. “We only realised that he was deaf when he started walking. We would call him, but he wouldn’t respond,” his mother Bromina says. Anthony was also born with cataracts - a series of surgeries means he has some residual vision in one eye.

SI-Kenya supported his enrolment at the deafblind unit at Kitui School for the Deaf, a partner school.

Here Anthony was able to get on with learning to live independently. He was taught life and hygiene skills via sign language, such as washing, brushing his teeth and eating using a spoon. His teachers nurtured his senses with education activities involving touching, smelling and tasting. Anthony made slow but steady progress and after six years joined the main school..

“Anthony settled into school with ease when he joined us from the deafblind unit. We started by helping him to raise his self-esteem and to be independent so that he would benefit more from schooling,” says Veronica, his lower primary teacher.

When supporting children such as Anthony to flourish at school, SI-Kenya considers the full needs of the family. In the case of Anthony, this included providing transport to school, funds for his day to day subsistence and consultation fees for his medical appointments and operations. SI-Kenya has also supported the deafblind uit with  learning resources including sign language alphabet blocks, brightly-coloured toys with sound and light and embossed, tactile diagrams that encourage and enable pupils to learn effectively.

Philip's teacher Victoria asks him a question in class

To help with his low vision, Anthony uses reading glasses combined with a hand-held magnifying glass. A reading aid elevates the book so that he doesn’t damage his posture by bending down low all the time. “We do our best to accommodate him because he is part of our class,” says his teacher Samuel, who allows him to sit at the front close to the blackboard when he needs to.  Anthony is an active and enthusiastic pupil both in and out of the classroom. He is a member of the school’s traditional dance group and has represented the school in national competitions. Anthony also loves athletics and football. SI-Kenya uses sports to create awareness of children with deafblindness as well as for fun, participation and inclusion.

Through sign language, Anthony said he is keen to finish school and later would like to make money to support his mother. He also intends to buy a car.

SI-Kenya is looking forward to supporting Anthony either into tertiary education or vocational college when he completes secondary school. His future is bright.

Find out more about Sense International’s work.

First published: Tuesday 18 June 2013
Last updated: Friday 6 December 2019