New West Bengal research suggests devastating impact of pandemic on deaf schoolchildren in the developing world
“One in three deaf pupils had no access at all to electronic devices for remote learning
Four in five said they received no support from a teacher
The pandemic has been a “disaster” for the education of deaf young people, says Deaf Child Worldwide
DCW warns policy-makers they “risk losing an entire generation of deaf potential.”
A new study, issued today by Deaf Child Worldwide (DCW), has thrown a spotlight on some of the challenges faced during the global COVID-19 pandemic by deaf schoolchildren in the developing world.
Focusing on deaf schoolchildren in West Bengal, the report describes a lack of access to technology, limited support from teachers and inaccessible remote learning resources.
It says the pandemic has been a “disaster” for the education of deaf children and young people.
At a time when school closures meant that remote learning became one of the few options for schoolchildren to continue their education, the researchers found that almost a third of deaf pupils had no access at all to electronic devices, meaning online learning was simply not an option for them.
To compound the problem, only one in five (19%) of deaf pupils said they received any direct support from a teacher.
They also found that, as a consequence, many deaf pupils were relying more heavily on NGOs to provide the support they were no longer receiving from their schools. In particular, the learning centres run by DCW’s partner organisations, where deaf pupils could be helped by specialist staff, were the most preferred source of support.
The effects of isolation from friends and schoolmates during lockdown was also in evidence, with over a third (35%) of deaf girls and a quarter (23%) of deaf boys saying they felt sad.
In response to the report’s findings, DCW has come up with a raft of measures to help improve the prospects of deaf schoolchildren.
These include ensuring digital learning is accessible for children with disabilities and from disadvantaged backgrounds, investing in training more teachers with the skills to teach deaf children and providing additional specialist support to deaf students at school and in the community.
DCW has produced a short video to accompany the report, which tells the story of deaf school student Priyanka, 16, and describes the challenges she faced as a result of the pandemic.
Joanna Clark, Director of Deaf Child Worldwide, said:
“This report paints a bleak picture of the many challenges facing deaf schoolchildren in West Bengal, and very likely in developing countries around the world too. The impact of the pandemic on the education of the deaf young people we spoke to has been nothing short of disastrous.
“During the pandemic, they have had to contend with a lack of access to technology, inaccessible learning materials, inadequate support from teachers and the crushing isolation of lockdown. They feel badly let down by a school system they relied on to build a better future for themselves.
“Educational policy-makers and funders around the developing world are now discussing the lessons of lockdown and drawing up plans for the future. We urge them to grasp the opportunity to build a better future for their deaf schoolchildren or risk losing an entire generation of deaf potential.””
Full report can be accessed here