School for the Deaf
The only school for the deaf in The Gambia is St John's School for the Deaf in Serrekunda. This is a day special school sponsored by the Catholic Education Secretariat. Pupil numbers have increased considerably in recent years and (in 2014) there are about 250 pupils, all of whom either walk to school or are collected by one of three school buses.
The school caters for pupils from the age of 7 years (Grade 1) through to 18-19 years (Grade 12). The main medium of instruction is Gambian Sign Language.
A small number of pupils wear hearing aids and it is hoped many more will do so in future.
The Principal of the St John’s is Mr Daniel Mendy and there is a large staff of teachers and assistants, some of whom are themselves deaf.
Nursery Classes for Deaf Children
In addition to St John's School there are nursery classes for deaf children adjacent to the GADHOH headquarters in Kanifing (not far from St John's School), and also classes in Brikama and in Farafenni.
Unit for Deaf Children in Basse
A new unit for deaf children opened in a primary school in Basse in September 2012. A previous pilot project in the same area, funded by another charity (KADECT), was attended by up to 35 deaf children and young people from the area, all keen to learn. The need for some more permanent educational provision for deaf children was clear and it was very pleasing when, with continued funding from KADECT and the full support of the education authorities, the new Unit opened.
A teacher of the deaf (Mamie Mendy) was seconded from St John’s School and the Unit has been a considerable success with several of its pupils being highly placed in the school end of year examinations.
Itinerant (Visiting) Teachers of the Deaf (ITOD)
The GDCSP trained, appointed and funded the first Itinerant (Visiting) Teacher of the Deaf (ITOD) in 2007 and then added a second ITOD in 2011.
These two teachers also trained to be a part of the HARK Mobile Assessment Clinic Team and, using motor bikes provided by GDCSP, have been able to follow up contacts made by the HARK and visit and support a number of deaf children in local schools close to their homes, thus allowing the deaf children to attend the same school as their friends and siblings.
ITOD Update – January 2014
Although the ITOD programme has worked very well, at the present time GDCSP is not funding any ITODs. The first ITOD, Andrew Jatta, had been training as an accountant in his spare time and, as was always his declared intention, left education to work in a bank (where he earns a considerably higher salary!).
Sadly our second ITOD, Ali Jatta, died suddenly in July 2012 after a short illness. This was a great shock to us all and he is a tremendous loss to deaf education in The Gambia. We have not yet replaced either ITOD but may do so in the future.
This has actually been made less urgent because the Department for Special Education has appointed and trained a large team of itinerant teachers who now work in all regions of the country and who, among other SEN, support some deaf children. This is a pleasing development, based partly on the model of support pioneered by the GDCSP ITOD team.