Walking into the Grade 6 class at Sakubva Primary School in Mutare, one could hardly tell that some of children have hearing impairments, as the jovial mood of the class and the high level of interaction is way beyond individual expectations given some of the stereotypes people with disability have been exposed to. Sakubva was identified as one of the schools implementing the Inclusivity concept enshrined in the Updated Curriculum. The inclusivity concept stresses on learner centered practices such as gender sensitivity, health promotion, disability-friendliness and an organized support system for all.
The new Curriculum took effect in 2017 through the support from the Education Development Fund 2 which is a multi-donor pooled funding mechanism that is supported by the Government of the United Kingdom, through the Department for International Development (DFID) and the German Government. It provides the framework for inclusive learning that all schools have to abide by. Sakubva Primary Schools is among the schools that have made significant strides towards implementing the inclusivity concept.
The school partnered Nzeve Deaf Children’s Centre and, has systems in place that ensure all learners enjoy equitable access to quality education regardless of their socioeconomic and disability status. The Centre has an Early Childhood Development (ECD) program whose learners join Sakubva’s resource unit upon graduation. Every Wednesday afternoon learners from Sakubva Primary go to Nzeve for sign language learning and life skills training. The synergy allows for smooth transition from Nzeve to Sakubva making it easy for learners to hit the ground running as there is no need for adjustment to the environment as there is regular interaction among learners from these two institutions.
There is a systematic staff development program that empowers teachers with sign language skills so that there is easier communication between learners with Hearing Impairment (HI) and non-sign language specialist teachers. “We have taken the inclusivity concept seriously such that we now have staff development programs to avoid any communication hustles between the HI learners and others teaching staff that are not sign language specialists,” Grace Mutsanya, Teacher in Charge (TIC), Sakubva Primary School, said. The idea is to create an even learning environment where all despite of their disability status feel comfortable. The TIC added that every Monday and Wednesday sign language specialist teacher conducts the assembly in the sign language with the other hearing students that are proficient in sign language interpreting the proceedings to others.
Nzeve Centre complements the school through capacity building. By involving parents in the learning processes of children the Centre is making the inclusion of children with HIs into the main stream easy as there is continuity because of one language of instruction both at school and home. “We invite parents to be a part of children’s learning to promote sign language within the home because we believe the home is the first line of reference for the child and by doing so we are creating a connection between the community and the deaf children,” Nzeve Deaf Children’s Centre, Head of Programs and Training Coordinator Selina Mlambo noted. Teaching parents sign language also establishes the sense of belonging among the children with hearing impairments. The community through its participation is owning up the initiative thereby impacting positively on sustainability.
Through its partnership with Sakubva Primary, volunteers from the Nzeve train members of the Sign Language Social Club. The social club is a composition of learners from different grades who have keen interests in learning the language. The club has necessitated proper communication between hearing and Hearing Impaired learners.
Sign language specialist teacher, Patricia Murinda revealed that the school adopted a bilingual approach on language of instruction, to ensure successful implementation of the inclusive concept. “For one hour every Tuesday two parents one adult deaf and a hearing parent come to teach sign language, life skills and health related issues,” she noted. Sign language has become one of the official languages of instruction at the school making the inclusivity concept a reality. New learners are oriented upon arrival so that they adopt the culture inclusivity.
The school ensures that learners with HIs fit in well with the rest by combining classes during practical subjects. This has managed to create coercion between two distinct groups housed under the same roof. The school administration played a supportive role by designating a standard classroom fully furnished to ensure learners have no impediments in their learning process. Individualized Learning Program is helping HI learners grasp concepts that they have challenges in during normal class setup. The school also carries out community sensitization programs distributing fliers in attempts to demystify myths around disability as well as substituting denial with acceptance as many because of social norms shy away from taking their disabled children to these learning institutions.