THE community of people living with hearing impairment has been suffering by missing studying opportunities at different levels. Parents and guardians of the deaf in the Northern Zone of Tanzania (Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Manyara and Tanga regions) noticed the situation and decided to form an association that would bring them together. It is an organisation that would strive to pool resources and ensure the children get quality education.
It goes by a Swahili abbreviation Uwavika, whose long form translates into the Union of Parents with Deaf Children in Northern Zone of Tanzania. Among other things, Uwavika has been out to change the way the world looks at the deaf community and project them as a viable pool of human resource, capable of becoming contributive partners of the society.
To sensitise and create awareness about deafness, remove prevailing misconceptions and build bridges between the deaf and hearing communities. Mr John Mwashi is Uwavika Chairman who says one of tangible benefits of the association is establishment of Ghona Vocational Training Centre for the Deaf (Ghona VTCD) that is situated at Kahe East Ward. The centre, he says, was constructed by Woodford Foundation from the United Kingdom at the cost of 298m/- in 2010.
As the donor’s project was brought to an end, Uwavika was left with the task of running the centre, costs of which have become too huge to bear. This is because many of parents and guardians have no liquidity to that extent. He says if the centre is left to be run by Uwavika, it would be in its last days.
That led stakeholders to come together and discuss the way forward, under coordination of Childreach, a nongovernment organisation that deals with enabling the deaf come out of ‘darkness’ and get education.
“Parents with deaf children decided to form our unity and establish Ghona Deaf Vocational Training Centre in collaboration with Doreen Woodford from United Kingdom who is in a deaf family. It was after learning that Mwanga Deaf Centre has no capacity to enroll all our kids,” says Mr Mwashi who also served as the Board Chairman of the Ghona- VTCD.
The donors supported the running costs of the centre for three years since 2010. With a very limited budget depending on parent’s contributions, Uwavika found they could not run the centre.
It is for the government to take over the centre. The decision is arrived at after a lengthy discussion among stakeholders. Those include Moshi District Council, Patandi Special Teachers’ Training College, Vocational Education Training Authority (Veta) and Small Industries Development Organisation (Sido).
The approval is that Ghona-VTCD is officially placed under Moshi District Council and other stakeholders will go on offering their support. Mr Bertin Mkami (Uru-Shimbwe Councillor, on behalf of Moshi District Council Chairman, Mr Michael Kilawila says they unanimously agreed to take over Ghona-VTCD.
He says they will be engaging in further discussion on how best to manage the centre and see more deaf students join it, so that at the end of the day they lead normal life without being dependent.
“On behalf of the Moshi DC, I recommend we take over the centre and I would pray Childreach continue with their dedicated efforts in support of the centre. They have done a lot, including poultry project that generates income to our students,” he says.
Childreach Country Director, Ms Sheilla Makindara unveils that her organisation would continue to support the centre even after the handing over, as their target is the deaf to have quality education and lead normal life after graduating in different fields, such as tailoring and carpentry. She says Childreach Tanzania has been working closely with deaf children and young people since 2009, specifically supporting the Ghona-VCT for the deaf.
“Our work with Ghona includes helping to set up school structures, water projects, energy projects and the implementation of income generating activities as sources of income for the centre. These activities have also been supported by the charity signal,” she says.
The Moshi District Council, will also be taking over a project proposal from Uwavika, in constructing a special public secondary school for the deaf, to ensure all with that disability have the opportunity to get quality secondary school education.
The step will hugely boost study opportunities for the deaf in the Northern Zone. Expounding on the matter, Mr Mwashi says they came aboard with the idea to have a special secondary school to augment the other one in Mbeya region.
He appeals to stakeholders to join forces so that their dream is realised. He notes that the Minister for Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training, Professor Joyce Ndalichako visited the centre and was happy with the idea of establishing the secondary school. The secondary will be constructed at the same location the VCT is and the hope is, he unveils, to start enrollment next academic year.
One of the students at the centre, Diana Alphonce, says her dream is to be a qualified tailor, believing she could achieve that as they practice every day. “I dream of being a tailor, working in Moshi town, and sewing lots of different types of designs and materials. Every day we practice on the sewing machines. This should give me the help I need to get better, then go on to spend my life earning my own way as a tailor.
I like being with other people here, and I really enjoy their cooperation,” she says. The training programme aims to enable 65 per cent of all trainees to pass national vocational examinations. It is also to have 85 per cent of trainees to rate their understanding of life-skills, facilitate trainees being selfemployed in carpentry or tailoring and to contribute to trainees’ improved health, emotional well-being and knowledge of how to remain healthy.