Monday, 4 January 2010

Communication in Kenya

I am not going to go on about the difference between UK English and Kenglish - I have already covered this.

No, this is a much greater problem for me. In the UK, I have rarely had  to communicate with anyone who is profoundly deaf. Most people have some sort of hearing aid here.

But in Kisii, we are regularly visited by Simon, a profoundly deaf 8 year-old. He is a smashing kid, with a ready, broad smile, but he cannot hear or talk, other then by using sign language. He has his own language, which is a mixture of Kenyan Sign language and a few signs of his own.

But the biggest problem for me is to remember that Simon expresses his feelings with facial exaggerated expressions. So, sometimes, he can look very angry, or very sad, which alarms me until I realise that he is using his face to communicate.

On the up-side, when he is happy (which is most of the time), he smiles broadly and makes "happy" sounds.

I found out on my last trip that simon contracted malaria when he was a baby. He was treated at hospital but became deaf as a result either of the disease or the treatment - I don't know which.

He does attend school occasionally, but can often be seen wandering along the river bank. If he then sees someone at home, he rushes up to see us, usually around meal times!

He will eat anything offered to him and will not stop until all plates are thoroughly empty.

Simon is usually very grubby and wears clothes which are bordering on rags. But one Sunday, he invited himself to lunch and he was ... clean! Not only was he clean but he was wearing clean clothes with hardly a tear or hole in them. He looked like a totally different person to the point that I did not immediately recognise him!

As far as we can make out, Simon has a full complement of parents, so, strictly speaking, does not fall into a category to be put on the Twiga register. maybe we should change our criteria to include children who are neglected due to a disability. This is not to say that Simon is neglected, but I am sure that he could be better looked after.

Unfortunately, kids with a disability can be ignored by their parents, who do not know what to do with them.

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