Deaf students speak out
Experiences of education in West Bengal during the COVID-19 pandemic
The pandemic has been a tremendously difficult time for everyone. The closure of so many schools for so long has thrown the challenges of accessing education remotely for children across the world. Deaf Child Worldwide wanted to find out more about the many ways that the pandemic has impacted on the education and lives of deaf young people.
“Even before the pandemic, we knew that deaf children in developing countries can experience a delay of up to ten years in developing their first language.”
We commissioned a study focusing on the experiences of deaf secondary school children in West Bengal. It is called ‘Deaf students speak out’ because our survey and case studies sought the stories from deaf young people themselves, not their teachers or parents, because in our experience they are rarely asked about their own reflections and opinions.
Although this research is focused on a specific context, our experience of working in low income countries in South Asia and East Africa has shown us that many issues for deaf children are shared. Through this research, we intend to contribute to the global discussion about how education can be made more accessible for deaf learners as we ‘build back better.’
In response to the study’s findings, we have come up with a range of recommendations for education policymakers and funders which, if put into practice, could significantly improve the prospects of deaf schoolchildren:
- Ensure digital learning is accessible for all learners, including those with disabilities and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Invest in training teachers, so that they are equipped with the right skills and knowledge to teach deaf children.
- Provide additional support to deaf students at school and in the community that recognises their specific needs.
- Conduct further research to understand how deafness intersects with other factors that lead to disadvantage.
We have also produced a short video to accompany the report, which tells the story of deaf school student Priyanka, 16, and describes the challenges she faced as a result of the pandemic.
We would be interested to know what practitioners working with deaf students in low income communities around the world think of the West Bengal findings. How are the experiences similar to where you work, and how are they different?
Send us an email to [email protected] to let us know.