Esther's Journey to Overcoming Hearing Loss

Wednesday 8 May 2024

 From isolation to empowerment. A tale of resilience in the face of adversity

Esther, an 8-year-old girl from Ntcheu district – central Malawi, was born without any hearing impairments. However, following a two-month-long illness, she tragically lost her ability to hear.

One day, Esther became hungry and needed to eat something but she could not ably express herself in a way her mum could hear. Realizing that for a number of days her mum could not understand what she was trying to communicate, she resolved to crying uncontrollably. The mum was mad at her since she could not understand why the daughter was crying.

Esther, realized that her hearing capability was lost and had problems to express herself. Her friends began to distance themselves from her, leaving her feeling isolated. Unable to hear her mother or relatives, she felt lost and disconnected from her loved ones. Her once exemplary performance in class suffered as she struggled to understand the lessons being taught. Her cherished dream of becoming a pilot seemed unattainable, and she felt as though she existed in a separate reality altogether.

Esther suddenly found herself unable to hear, struggling to express herself and connect with others.

Esther had to devise signs to communicate what was on her mind, but this was not an easy task.

Her mother, Vizia, 35, was equally confused. There was complete communication breakdown between her and the daughter. Vizia gave up on Esther’s education and withdrew the standard two learner from school.

“One day, I was invited to a training at Ntcheu Boma that was organized by Save the Children in collaboration with Malawi National Association for the Deaf (MANAD).” Narrates Vizia, her face glowing with some exciting memories.

“The training provided us, parents and guardians for hearing-impaired children, with essential skills to bridge the communication gap and standardize sign language usage.

“It was also a great eye opener. We can now communicate with our daughter and other families who have hearing impaired members,” ends Vizia.

Esther resumed her Primary Education at Mua School for the deaf in Dedza district and her mother serves as the chairperson of the Parents of Children with Hearing Impairment committee within the Makwangwala Traditional Authority.

The Disability Inclusion project by Save the Children is currently conducting a follow-up exercise with parents and Special Needs Education (SNE) teachers who underwent training in basic Malawian sign language. This initiative, conducted in collaboration with partner organizations such as the Malawi National Association for the Deaf (MANAD), Malawi Council for the Disability Affairs (MACODA), and District Social Welfare aims at evaluating the effectiveness of the intervention and assess how well the sign language skills are being utilized in practice.       

 Story by Jones Maenje