Monday, 15 October 2012

Deaf Kenyans - Rewriting the history of the Deaf in Kenya Series I



Little information exists about the Kenyan Deaf community prior to 1960. It is however known that in 1958 concerned hearing Kenyans established the Kenya Society for Deaf Children (KSDC). In the late 1960s’ and early 70s’ Deaf people from Nyangoma and Mumias who were believed to be first generation of educated Deaf people in the Deaf schools came to Nairobi to look for jobs and better life.

This is justified when Alan Lane, Robert Hoffmeister, and Ben Bahan paid visit to Kenya and had to say this on Kenya deaf community in their book. In addition, graduates of the schools have been mingling for some three – four decades now in cities such as Nairobi, where there are reportedly several hundred Deaf adults. The numbers of deaf people are known to be large in Nairobi and while in Nairobi, they went to Kenya Society for the Deaf Children (KSDC) for social services, since there was no national association of the deaf to cater for their rights that time. KSDC was the only organization for the Deaf though it’s aim was to focus on improving education of deaf children by establishing schools and looking for donors to sponsor needy Deaf children, in addition to that KSDC was also offering in-services-training program for the teachers for the deaf, but not to advocate and serve the deaf adults who by then were facing serious discrimination at employments and other institutions due to their deafness.

Since then several organizations have sprung up offering a myriad of services and opportunities to the growing Deaf population in Kenya. Central to this was the formation of Kenya National Association of the Deaf (KNAD) a national non-governmental organization was formed and managed by Deaf people in 1986 and registered in 1987 under the Societies Act; KNAD is an ordinary member of the World Federation of the Deaf. Ann Oginga (the former KSDC director) flew to Sweden and met with the Swedish Federation of the Deaf (SDR) regarding Kenyan issues and brought to the SDR’s attention to the current plight of Deaf adults in their post-primary life. She then enlisted SDR’s assistance into investigating the new social crisis of the Deaf in Kenya. Uldis Ozolins from SDR came to Kenya and met Solomon Kayia through the Association of Nairobi Deaf Sports. Some Deaf people attend athletic tournaments to play, of course, but they and many more are there for another reason: to be with other members of the DEAFWORLD (frequently impossible during the work day) and to see old friends who have become separated after graduation or marriage or a move to a new job. 

Deaf people were more interested in sporting activities as that was the only social events that was available apart from deaf clubs. So it made it easier to reach deaf community. With Solomon’s assistance, Uldis discovered more information about the Deaf in Kenya. Solomon led Uldis on a fact finding mission to deaf schools in Kenya. Armed with the information, Uldis returned to Sweden and met with the board of SDR showed the board his experiences and information he got from Kenya about Kenya Deaf Community. The board in turn met with KSDC on the findings and resolutions. KSDC agreed to serve as a bridge between Sweden Deaf and Kenya Deaf regarding communication. In these meetings and events there were hearing individuals friends of the Deaf, family members, social workers etc who learnt Kenyan Sign Language and aided the Deaf in their communications with the rest of the world.

Today?? Join us in Series II looking at today

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