Reading the signs

The Association for Children with Language, Speech and Hearing Impairments of Namibia is the only specialised early childhood development facility for hearing-impaired children in the country.

20 August 2019 | Education

Ester Kamati

Since May 2011, Hazel Josob has been the principal teacher at the Association for Children with Language, Speech and Hearing Impairments of Namibia (CLaSH) pre-school unit.

She initially learned sign language out of interest, not knowing that it would merge with her love for children and lead her to become a haven of understanding and an early childhood developer for hearing-impaired children in Namibia.

Josob admitted that it is difficult to get through to the children, especially those who come to the unit not knowing how to communicate.

However, the children easily learn from one another through interacting with those who already know how to communicate through sign language, she said.

Patience is a key characteristic, which continually surfaces, along with Josob’s love for children.

CLaSH currently has one classroom located at the SOS Children’s Village in Khomasdal, where it has been for the past ten years, after moving from an old venue in Katutura.

The facility currently has ten children between the ages of three and five, and ensures that by the schoolgoing age of six, the children are mentally developed and prepared for their next academic stage.

The daily programme for the children starts with breakfast, after which they wash their plates and begin their Montessori exercises, which they choose themselves.

Montessori is a child-centred educational approach, which is based on a child’s eagerness for knowledge.

Josob guides the children on how to use the material, but ultimately, the exercises promote independence among the children.

According to Josob, good morals and an atmosphere of understanding are upheld through drama and teaching the children to love and respect each other, while discouraging aggressive behaviour through signing and playing.

Heide Beinhauer, the director of CLaSH, shared that the centre uses the Montessori educational approach along with deaf education principles and language development. She said there is a shared vision between CLaSH and the education ministry, which she is grateful for, as the ministry often steps in to assist.

The unit, which has been running since 1989, has four teachers, including the principal teacher. Two of the teachers are hearing-impaired.

Beinhauer mentioned this is deliberate because it is easier for them to effectively communicate with the children, compared to someone who has learned sign language and can hear.

The CLaSH centre tries to create their own reading material, which is easily digestible for the children. The early development centre follows the government school calendar and had their last school day of the term on 9 August.

What is unique about the centre is that teaching is carried out through playing, and it is not just about digesting information, but using your body and capabilities to grasp information.

At the learning centre, the children are each provided with hearing aids, which help them hear loud sounds.

“We try to give everyone a hearing aid to get them in tune with their natural environment,” said Beinhauer.

CLaSH also had a home visit programme, which they organised to meet up with the parents of hearing-impaired children in the country. Through this programme, they identified children that they can take in, and for those who have already reached a schoolgoing age or are too young to join CLaSH, the parents are given recommendations and advice on special grants, deaf education, as well as communication.

Deaf children are not disabled, added Beinhauer.

Caption 1: One of the children doing a puzzle.

Caption 2: Some of the learning equipment used at CLaSH.

Caption 3: Geography illustrations used by CLaSH.

Caption 4: Some of the Montessori equipment used for learning processes.

Caption 5: More of the items in the classroom.

Caption 6: Some of the items created to illustrate the story of the Nile crocodile.

Caption 7: One of the children carrying out her Montessori exercise.

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