Sunday, November 14, 2010

Deaf School Bulgaria

BH and I had a chance to visit the Deaf school in Sofia, Bulgaria where, hopefully, BH will be able to volunteer every once in a while. Our friend, Mitko, gave us a tour of the school and I had a chance to chat with the director to see if BH can help out. The school was not in great shape. Like other places in the world, Deaf students are choosing to go to speaking schools and relying on hearing aids and cochlear implants for their education. As the number of students drops in the Deaf residence schools, I assume government aid drops as well. The school was in worse shape than the school we saw in the Philippines. Students were going in and out of class, and it looked like nobody was following any schedule. The teachers didn't seem to mind that our friend wasn't in class, and just let him do what he wanted. The younger kids seemed to actually be sitting in class and not wandering around, but the high school students appeared to not have any restrictions.
The worst part was that there weren't any Deaf teachers. Only the gym teacher was Deaf. I do not understand this. I can understand wanting to integrate students into the speaking world, but not using sign in the classrooms seems like such a huge challenge for the students, and takes away from their instruction. I would think a better system would have maybe 70% of the faculty using solely sign language in the classroom, and another 30% of the time devoted to speech training and lip reading. Then again, I'm being influenced by a recent movie I saw: Children of a Lesser God. This story is about a residence school for the Deaf in New England, and for the most part paints a nice picture. The teachers combine both an oral approach as well teach in ASL. Then again, the Deaf community is very strong in the states...
What is the solution? If the student body continues to shrink, there is no way the school can get the necessary funding to be a viable option for Deaf students. The whole system needs to be re-thought out. Deaf students should be able to receive the same education that speaking students get in schools across the country. Of course, there own special needs should be catered to. Only if the school can attract more students will it have a chance to revitalize; however, the culturally Deaf world is shrinking, so how can this ever occur?

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