École Ephphatha pour les Sourds

Burundi, 2011-15

with support from Jersey Overseas Aid, Comic Relief, British Foreign Schools Society, Deafkidz International, Evan Cornish Foundation, and Cotton Trust

DDP’s partnership with the École Ephthatha (EES) began with a research project, supported by Comic Relief, on the educational and communication needs of deaf children in Burundi. The study ‘Deaf children in Burundi: their education and communication needs’ (DDP Research Report, December 2012) made recommendations for improvements to the educational system, steps to enhance the use of sign language, and ways involve and support the families of deaf children.

EES is a boarding school attended by children from all over the country, and DDP supported physical improvements to the school, and to the quality of teaching through SEN workshops, sign language and interpretation training, an IT unit, and other facilities to create a safe and improved learning environment where deaf children could enjoy and achieve their educational potential.

The infrastructure improvements – to the kitchen and dining rooms, a perimeter fence, levelled and landscaped grounds and paths, a new classroom, two new dormitories, washing and toilet facilities… – have  enhanced the children’s safety and their physical, social and mental wellbeing. By establishing an egg production unit, we helped to provide a sustainable income source and a regular supply of eggs for school meals.

Sports equipment and facilities, including the school sports field and running track, were developed and a PE teacher employed, allow after-school sports such as basketball, netball and football) to be offered. The school even hosted two inclusive football tournaments, one of which was  an international team with players from a deaf school in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Our research into the educational and communications needs of deaf children, sustained improvements to EES, and support for parents of deaf children have helped to raise awareness, and supported lobbying with the Ministry of Education to include deaf and disabled children in education policy. As a result, the government began to support the salaries of teachers at EES. The partnership also created the conditions for children who finish at EES to enrol in mainstream secondary school.