|02-01-2012, 05:56 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2004
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He is an ear to Ntinda's deaf children
He is an ear to Ntinda's deaf children
Kindness is the best language you can use with children who have a hearing problem. It is the only language they clearly hear.
Benedicto Onyango, a Primary Four teacher at Uganda School for the Deaf understands this language so well and has become an epitome of kindness to the deaf children.
Humble, reserved and calm are the best words to describe Onyango who has spent four of his 35 years as a teacher at the Ntinda School of the Deaf. Perhaps, this is the personality that has endeared Onyango to his students.
When he steps in class, he commands cult attention. He knows every student by name and where they hail from. If any of the students gets a problem, he escorts them up to the doorstep of their homes.
“I have love for the marginalized people in society. Not only the deaf, but even the elderly, youth and children. I believe it is my inherent calling,” the soft spoken Onyango says.
The deaf need extra attention when working with them. Onyango says this should not be seen as a burden.
“These students have the same hopes and dreams like other students with no disabilities. We need to help them achieve their goals,” Onyango says.
A visit to the Ntinda-based school brings you face-to-face with the passion and love Onyango has for the disabled. When he moves around the school compound he is swamped by students. He occasionally stops to listen and chat with some of them.
“There is a place for you in this world,” he reminds them each day and instructs them to sit confidently in their seats, thump their chests and let their confidence soar. The enthusiasm with which he speaks about their future seems to be working for the pupils and this has transformed a number of them.
The school performed well in the Primary Leaving Exams. Topping the list of good performers was Achieng Tezira Jamwa, 17, daughter of David Chandi Jamwa, the former managing director of the National Social Security Fund.
She scored five in English, six in science, seven in social studies and three in mathematics.
Elizabeth Kiconco, a colleague, describes Onyango as a person committed to being a voice for the deaf children.
“Even when things do not go according to plan, he never stops trying,” Kiconco says.
“Onyango is a good counselor to the children. Teaching is not all that he does. He goes beyond what is required of him and makes sure the children have the necessary social skills and Christian values,” Kiconco adds.
Onyango is devoted to his students and wants to see them become successful adults.
“You will not find many men willing to work with the deaf but he does it diligently. He cares so much about them and wants their plight to be heard,” says Ben David Ochom, a colleague who has known him for 11 years.
“Some of these children have never been baptised or gone to church. He makes sure they get baptised and also takes them to church every Sunday. He plays a big parental role to these children,” Ochom says.
This parental role does not stop when the students complete school. He tries to help them get jobs after school. “Onyango tries his level best to see they find work.
He always brings their papers and speaks on their behalf, highlighting each of their abilities. He is not just a leader; he looks after them like a father,” says Rebecca Amoding of Britania, one of the companies that has taken an active role in employing the deaf.
These acts of kindness have won the hearts of many of his students who see him as a parent.
“My regular interaction with them beyond the class has contributed so much to their behavioural change. Since many are neglected, they lack moral and social skills but I see them get better by the time they leave this school,” Onyango reveals.
It is not just the students whose lives he is impacting, the staff and administration decided to appoint him a senior teacher partly because he has been instrumental in to supporting teachers under their umbrella association.
“I decided to take this path because of the love to serve the disabled, to be part of them as a teacher and to share their challenges with the community,” Onyango says.
Besides teaching, Onyango reaches out and talks to different people about the deaf community.
In October 2009, when the school was celebrating 50 years of deaf education in Uganda, Onyango helped mobilise funds which saw close to sh25m collected.
His efforts extended to the Indian community where he portrayed the deaf in a positive manner. Partly because of his effort, there is a group of Indians who supply free food to the school.
Onyango says the nature of national examinations set for the deaf should be different from those set for normal children.
“Some of the exams, such as English, do not address some aspects of the deaf children. And some of the vocabulary used in the exams is too hard for them to understand given that our grammar is different from the ordinary one,” Onyango says.
He requests for special needs teachers to be integrated in marking the exams of students with learning disabilities. Onyango also suggests that more attention be given to teachers for the deaf.
He argues that such teachers should have the skills to relate with disabled children at a personal level. This will enable the teachers understand the challenges the children face in their dayto- day lives.
“The Government should also set up a vocational training centre for the deaf since many of them are good at hands-on training.”
Despite such challenges, Onyango has remained one of those teachers that never stop when the final bell rings. His vigilance reassures those that have gone through his class that there is a place for them in this world.
Onyango was born in 1954 to Daniel Onyango and Rovina Aboth and went to Nagongera Boys Primary School. He then joined Nyendo Teacher Training College from 1973 to 1976 and qualified as a grade two teacher.
Between 1994 to 1996, he upgraded his qualifications to teach grade three and in 2001, he qualified with a diploma in special needs education.
Onyango has taught in Nakongera Boys Primary School, Malanga Boys Primary School, St.Jude Najjanankumbi, Bright Light Academy, St.Kizito Primary School, Nakivubo Blue Primary School and Old Kampala Primary School.
He is married to Judith Achieng and they have eight children
"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
- Helen Keller