Questions Children Ask

Below are a few questions I have been asked by children in Kenya (both deaf and hearing).

  • You’re deaf?  Did you go to school?
  • Do deaf people in America go to school?
  • Are you the only deaf person in America?
  • Do you speak?
  • Do you like the color of your skin?
  • Do you like the color of our skin?
  • What are those dots on your forehead (freckles)?  How did you get them?
  • Can I play with your hair?
  • How much are those things on your head (CIs)?
  • Are hearing people in America nice to you?

Are You Half and Half?

Back in the States, people will ask if I’m deaf, hard-of-hearing, or hearing.

In Kenya, I have had a few deaf children ask if I’m “half and half” after they see my cochlear implants.  Their sign for “half-half” is different than the ASL sign.  They take their dominant flat hand and put it in the middle of their face (on their nose) and then they move their hand back and forth.

Ok, that was a bad description but signs are so hard to explain without visual aids.

Anyways, instead of asking if I’m “hard-of-hearing”….they ask if I’m “half and half.”  Basically, they’re asking if I can communicate with both hearing and deaf people.  They’re asking if I have some hearing or/and some speech.

I actually kind of like the “half-and-half” term better than “hard-of-hearing” even though I consider myself a deaf person.

It’s been interesting trying to explain cochlear implants to people who have never heard the term or seen them.  Many children do not even have hearing aids.  I always make sure that they know that I’m still deaf and that cochlear implants do not make me a hearing person.


I had a great time shadowing a current PCV who will complete her 2 year service in December.

Kia, Ethan, and I headed to Danielle’s site last Saturday after playing some games with the local deaf children.  We survived a 12 hour-long matatu ride with the last 2 hours being on an unpaved road (bumpy).  We were thrilled to find that hot rice was waiting for us especially since it was a cool evening.

I had a great time getting to see more of Kenya from the matatu.  Kenya is beautiful and very diverse.  So many different types of plants, trees, and animals.  I saw several Baboons, zebras, and Vervet monkeys.  I also saw a few huts.

We drove through the Great Rift Valley and stopped for a choo break at the top (8,000 feet)…beautiful (the valley not the choo)!!

I had a great time meeting all 200+ students at the school for the deaf.  They were so excited to meet new people.  They were thirsty for love.  They wanted to be hugged.  They wanted you to look at them.  They wanted to hold your hands.  I’ve never seen such huge smiles on children’s faces just because they got to hold someone’s hand.

They were fascinated with how different my skin color was compared to theirs. They also wanted to touch my hair.

Kia is black and they could not believe she was not a Kenyan.  Kenyans are surprised when they find out there are black people in America.

We observed a few classes to see how deaf children are taught.  We also got to visit a nearby private school (hearing).   At the private school, a teacher took the opportunity to educate his students about sign language and deaf people.

Children at both schools are expected to learn the same things.  However, children at the private school were younger and ahead in all subjects.  You have to remember that deaf children oftentimes come to schools late and they may come without a language.

We also cooked a few meals during our stay with Danielle.  We made spaghetti with homemade sauce.  We also had pineapple salsa with chapati.  We also made a 3 layer cake with a jiko oven.

Good times were had.  We had some good discussions and filled Danielle in on what’s new in the States.

I can’t wait to get to my site and start my service!!  😀

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Residential Schools and Deaf Units

Many deaf children in Kenya go to residential schools which become their family.  Some residential schools do not have secondary schools because many deaf children do not pass the national exams required to move from primary school to secondary school.  Some schools have vocational schools instead of secondary school while other schools only have primary schools on campus.

Residential schools become the deaf child’s family.  Some deaf children start school at age 12.  While primary education is free in Kenya, residential schools are not free.

Deaf units are basically small classrooms with deaf students at hearing schools.  My understanding is that it’s not mainstreaming and sometimes these classrooms are combined with children who have other disabilities.

I have not once heard the term “mainstream.”  I do suspect mainstreaming does happen but it’s not as common or the term simply may not be used.

Training: Weeks #3-6

I’m a bit behind on blogging so bear with me!

Training is going well and am learning a lot.  We have lectures, KSL (Kenya Sign Language) lessons, and discussions on a daily basis.

Last week was week #4 of training which was my favorite week of training so far.  We  split up into small groups (2-3 people) and traveled all over Kenya to shadow a current PCV for a week.  More on that in another post.

This coming week is week #5 which means that we’re almost halfway through our training!

Here are some of the lecture topics for weeks #5 and 6 in addition to week #3 topics.

-Options for Deaf Students Post Primary School

-Language Acquisition Timeline

-First Aid and Emergencies

-Review of Schemes of Work and Lesson Planning

-Kenyan History

-Integrate HIV/AIDS and Food Security in the Classroom

-Asking Questions and Behavior Management

-Hidden Deaf Children.  Learning to Sign and Student Expectations

-Translating English Text to KSL

-Classroom Management

-History of KSL

-Maintaing Strong Emotions

-Residual Schools and Deaf Units

-Teaching Methods


-Material Development

History of KSL (Kenya Sign Language)

Some areas of Kenya use more ASL than KSL.  I have heard that some schools use more BSL (British) than KSL.

There is a group of people who are working very hard to encourage the usage of KSL in Kenya.  Kenyans who are deaf should have a language that they can call their own.  The story is that KSL is still a young language dating back to the 1960s.

I get the feeling that they’re trying to standardize KSL across Kenya and make it more of a uniform language.  My understanding is that as of last year they give deaf children the opportunity to take KSL exams instead of Kiswahili.

Let me quickly explain that every year standard 8 take national exams in different subjects before they can move to secondary school.  Deaf children in Kenya do not learn Kiswahili nor do they learn their village language (unless they have access to learning those languages outside of their school).  Instead they learn KSL and English.

The KSL exam is written which I find interesting because ASL is NOT a written language.   I’m looking forward to learning how to write KSL.