There are over 32 million deaf children in the world, with the majority living in developing countries. The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) targets deaf children and young people living in some of the world’s poorest communities through our international arm, Deaf Child Worldwide.
In Ecuador we work with DHEX and Fé y Alegría, two organisations who hold campaigning at the heart of their work. They recently organised the first national exchange in Ecuador, an event seeking to increase awareness of how to best communicate with deaf children and to defend the rights of deaf children.
The ex-Minster of Education facilitated the event which saw 20 teachers and 15 parents of deaf children come together from across the country to discuss their experiences teaching deaf children. Despite disability laws in Ecuador demanding that teachers of the deaf (ToDs) should provide a bilingual education for children, the Government does not offer any sign language training or support to ToDs. This, combined with the lack of resources available for supporting the education of deaf children in Ecuador, renders the work of ToDs extremely challenging.
Lessons learned and next steps
The teachers found it extremely useful to discuss these common challenges and share their learning, and expressed their interest in forming a support network with the aim to develop a regional network.
The parents group also found it invaluable to share experiences and talk about pertinent issues such as child rights and the need for quality education. Parents left feeling empowered with one commenting, “I learnt that we need to increase awareness and take responsibility for our children so that their rights are heard…I will continue to study sign language and I will motivate parents and share what I learnt at this workshop.”
Following this exchange, parents groups across the capital, Quito, have decided to come together as ‘The Association of Families of Deaf Children’ to ensure that the rights of deaf children are addressed and upheld in all Government policies and to monitor whether the Ministry of Education is undertaking actions to strengthen bilingual education for deaf children. Civil society organisations are legally recognised in Ecuador so they can formally monitor Government plans and their adherence to policies and laws. As such, this group should have a positive long-term impact on the lives of deaf children and young people in Ecuador. We are delighted to have been involved in this process and are looking forward to hearing how this will progress.