Wednesday, 24 March 2010

What about Cyangugu and the Centre?

I was back in Cyangugu for 2 weeks and this time I took Aimable, a very bright Deaf student who has finished his secondary schooling and is waiting to start at University next year. It had become clear to me on my first visit that there was a serious paucity of sign language at the centre, both among the students and among the teachers who have had a few hours of instruction from the Handicap International team. What many people don't seem to realise is that Sign language is a Language and that just teaching 50 or so signs is not adequate to provide a viable interpretation service! Nor do Deaf children emerge from the womb as fully fledged signers- they have to acquire language in the same way as a hearing child by having adult role models to show them how.
Aimable was great! He drew pictures all morning while I worked with the children with learning disabilities and then in the afternoon we did English and Sign Language with the children and teachers. He also taught traditional dance so that by the end of the second week the children were able to put on a pretty reasonable show of understanding and responding to signs and dancing. Many of the support staff also picked up some signs and in our afternoon sessions we quite often had some of the other students. Aimable has said that if he does not find other work he will return to Ngwino Nawe for further teaching.
The views from around Cyangugu are absolutely beautiful- across the bright green sweep of tea and the forest which seems to go on forever to the South and to the glint of the lake in the West and as one gets closer to the town the houses, the fishing boats, the islands in the lake and just across the water the mysterious and majestic mountains of Congo which exercise an extraordinary fascination - especially at night when they really do seem like the heart of darkness; in marked contrast to the bright lights and noise of Bukavu which exudes a real flavour of vigour, activity and energy across the Rusisi river which is all that separates us.

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