At first glance, Sama Drammeh is just like all the other students in his fourth grade class at Sibanor Lower Basic School. He sits attentively at the front of the room, copying everything his teacher writes on the board into his exercise book. When he’s finished, he eagerly shows his work to his teacher so it can be checked.
But Sama isn’t like all the other students in class. He is deaf. And the words he copies in his notebook have little meaning to the boy who can’t hear the teacher’s explanation.
Sama’s desire to learn is obvious. He tries to participate in class, although he barely understands and cannot speak, and he spends a lot of his free time browsing picture books in the library. But his best efforts can’t make up for teachers who aren’t trained to cater to his special needs.
Sama would have a chance at a better future if he attended St. John’s Basic Cycle School for the Deaf, the only institution of its kind in The Gambia – a school nearly 100 kilometers away from his home.
Sama’s parents have wanted to send him to the deaf school, but don’t have the financial means to pay for transportation costs or to stay with a family close to the school. So, Sama attends the local school where he is passed from grade to grade despite his inability to understand the material.
“I could send my son to the bush to help his father make charcoal or keep him home to help me around the compound,” his mother said in her local language of Mandinka. “But I send him to school every day, hoping he will learn even if he can’t hear and is only looking at the board. His father and I did not have the chance to be educated, and we would do anything to give our children that opportunity.”
Sama, who lost his hearing around the age of three, is never seen without a smile. He is a friendly boy, often surrounded by supportive friends. He has even developed his own sort-of sign language that helps him communicate in a small way. A GambiaRising Charitable Trust sponsorship to attend the deaf school is taking Sama to the next level – giving him the chance he deserves to communicate, to learn and to better his future. Read about his first day of school here: http://jessicafryman.com/2015/sama-starts-school/. And see him learning to sign here: http://jessicafryman.com/2016/sama-learns-to-sign/.
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