In 1982 under the wing of the Episcopal Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, the Deaf Unit opened its doors to the first class of students. The school has now branched out to include teacher training programs, the Deaf Club, the Deaf Church, two new Community Based Rehabilitation programs in Upper Egypt and the beginnings of an Audiology Clinic.
Our target populations are deaf and hearing impaired children and adults who cannot find or afford services in Egypt, and we aim to provide them with new opportunities both economically and socially.
Oftentimes, the deaf children who come to the school are from families where both parents and perhaps all other siblings are hearing. This situation often leads to much misunderstanding in the family, thus we at the Deaf Unit desire to provide as much opportunity for better communication as possible. In order to do this classes are offered once a week to the parents, and people within the local community, to teach them sign language, help educate them on the ill-founded stereotypes of the deaf, and give them the opportunity to build connections with other families that have deaf children.
Currently, we serve 70 children from Cairo, outlying suburbs and Upper Egypt. During the week, most of these students board at the school but go home on the weekend; those children who live in Upper Egypt, though, board with us full time and only go home on long holidays.
At the school, they learn standard Egyptian Sign Language and within the first month of being there, they are usually able to communicate with each other and those around them with this knowledge; something many of them have never fully been able to do. They also learn Arabic, so that they can communicate through writing with the hearing community. Many of the children will enter the school when they are between 5 and 6 years old, and will study until they are 15 and continue on into the local government schools for higher levels of education.
One of our main goals is to provide students and deaf adults with the opportunity to interact not only with other deaf people, but also with the hearing. For this reason we partner with other schools and organisations some government and others connected with the Episcopal Diocese of Egypt, to try and build opportunities for these interactions. This then allows the children to be better integrated in the general community, overcoming their own stereotypes for hearing people whilst hearing people are given the chance to overcome their presuppositions about the deaf.
On graduating from our program, the students earn a literacy certificate and have the opportunity to be placed into further education programs inone of the government-run schools for the deaf.