As many of you know, I’m now having a holiday with my mother in Greece, on the Kos Island. We are staying at a rather small hotel not far from the only town on this island. And it is here, on a thinly populated island, among a whole variety of holiday-makers, that I managed to meet teachers of deaf and hard of hearing children! I watched a family of three for several days, having certainly realized that one girl was deaf. Then, I came up to them to make their acquaintance. It turned out that the whole family had come from Poland for a holiday. The eldest woman was hearing, and she was a teacher for deaf children, while the young deaf woman was a tutor at a residential school for deaf children, and the little girl of around 5 years old was a daughter of one of them, and she was hard of hearing. She fingerspelled quickly, but didn’t feel like communicating a lot. We talked, and below I would like to quote what they told me about education for deaf people in Poland, in the city of Wrocław.
“In our country, children are diagnosed on the very first day after birth. They are given hearing aid right away or are offered cochlear implantation. All hard of hearing children go to ordinary kindergartens and ordinary schools. It is very rare that hard of hearing children with underdeveloped speech go to schools for deaf children. Deaf children go to special kindergartens and attend them for three years, and then they go to special schools. Most of the children live in residential schools. They attend school for 11 years, like the hearing: 7 years of primary school and 4 years of secondary. They usually don’t continue education after school, though there are several colleges that give this opportunity. There are few deaf teachers in schools. Deaf people mostly become school tutors (those who help children outside of class hours). Children are mostly taught oral speech. Many teachers face problems with children learning Polish oral speech after the Polish sign language. It is caused by the complex grammar of oral speech, and by differences in word order. Many children, having learnt sign language, have difficulty reading, as they can’t understand many words or whole phrases. Studying to be a teacher for deaf children in Poland takes a lot of time. Everyone should study for 5 years and receive educational training, and then learn the specialty itself for 2 years: learn working with children who have hearing or vision loss. Apart from this, one has to complete a course in sign language, as they are not included into the compulsory study program. Only after this you receive the right to work.”
I can add that the family was extremely friendly, and they eagerly answered to my suggestion to talk. We also discussed sign language: many signs are alike, but some of them are difficult to recognize. I was invited to Poland to see for myself how the education is organized. I hope that I’ll be able to do it within my research.
Apart from this, there were three young men with hearing loss staying in our hotel! All the three of them had prosthetic appliances: hearing aid on each ear. They spoke English and Greek (?) fluently. I couldn’t accurately identify the second language. I can conclude that the young men were hard of hearing, and not deaf, judging from the state of their speech. I didn’t have a chance to talk to them, as they were at the hotel very rarely, and I mostly saw them from afar. I ran into one of them only once.
These were not the only instances when I met my specialty! I learnt that there was no special school for children with hearing loss on the island (the island is very small, and in case of need children are sent to the Isle of Rhodes or to the continent). However, right near us there was a school for children with various disabilities. There, children from Kos and the closest thinly populated islands study together. The school is not public, as its director, a Greek citizen, organized and opened it himself. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the school, as the children are on holiday now, but I’ll come to Greece again and will be able to learn everything.
One cannot escape one’s own goal.