Juliet Mary Tumuhairwe, the headteacher of Uganda School for the Deaf notes that wearing a facial mask is very challenging for her group of learners as they cannot fully understand or interpret what the teacher is communicating with them.
Lydia Nanteza is a pupil at the Ntinda based Uganda School for the Deaf. She
repeatedly pulls off her face mask to communicate with her peers and teachers.
facial mask) is disturbing me. I cannot communicate well with my friend with it
on. Every time you need to lower it. At times you forget it only to be reminded
by a colleague. In class, it's worse as you cannot effectively communicate with
the teacher,” Nanteza signs in despair.
Just like Nanteza and other
learners, the teachers also wear face masks in line with the Standard Operating
Procedures issued by the Ministry of Education and Sports.
Tumuhairwe, the headteacher of Uganda School for the Deaf notes that wearing a facial mask is
very challenging for her group of learners as they cannot fully understand or
interpret what the teacher is communicating with them.
//Cue in: “The challenge with...
Cue out...deaf learners.”//
Reading lips and facial expressions are vital for learners
with hearing impairments. To some people forcing learners with hearing
impairment to wear face masks is the direct exclusion of the already marginalized
Ivan Mugoya, a primary seven teacher, says both learners and teachers cannot
effectively express some words like whom, serious, lips and show colours such as
white with a mask on. He says that expressing emotions is impossible because
they are done simultaneously with the mouth and face.
To ensure that teaching and learning take place, Mugoya says they have bent the
rules so that at least the teacher removes his or her mask during the lesson.
However, there are limitations to this.
//Cue in: “Okay for that...
Cue out...am also protected.”//
Mugoya also criticizes the recommended classroom arrangement, which requires
learners to sit two-meters a part. According to Mugoya, this is ineffective as
such learners need to be close to the teacher to see what he is communicating.
He says that besides the hearing challenges, many of the learners have
//Cue in: “The social distancing...
Cue out...is very hard.”//
Daniel Opio, a learner in the same class says they would very much prefer it if
they had face shields since they are transparent. “I have seen people with
those things (face shields). It is easy to communicate with such. However here
at school, no one has it. We all wear masks yet it is difficult to communicate
with them on,” Opio signed as his teacher translated for our reporter.
Asked about the challenge, the rest of the learners signalled unanimously to
affirm Opio’s statement that they were facing the same problem. Tumuhairwe
says that when the SOPs were presented they tried to alert the authorities that
they don’t apply to their learners. She says that they expected that the Education Ministry to
design special SOPs for such learners but nothing has been done.
“The only problem is that these policies are always designed
from offices without any consultations from us the implementers. We are now
left to suffer from the implementation of such things. The bad thing is; if
they find you doing the contrary, you might land into trouble. That leaves us
with no option other than enforcing what they are saying,” Tumuhairwe shares.
The frustrated headteacher says as the government allows more classes to
reopen, they should think of better SOPs for differently gifted learners. Sarah
Bugoosi Kibooli, the Commissioner in Charge of Special Needs Education, says
that at the time of procuring masks, they had made special communication to
their health counterparts to distribute face shields to search learners instead
of face masks.
“...such learner cannot be given a mask. For what? I was so surprised when I
found out that this is what happened. The permanent secretary and I wrote a
letter to the ministry of health on this matter and I think we need to make a
follow-up and understand why these learners were given masks instead of face
fields,” she said.
On the issue of face shields, Elias Anguyo, another teacher
at the school, says given the visual challenges among some learners the face
shields might not be the best solution.