Conservation Blog

Koko Teaches in Africa

Koko "asks" us to help teach ASL
Date Added: March 22, 2009

In 2008 The Gorilla Foundation gifted teaching materials and supported teacher training in all 33 of the Baptist and Presbyterian secondary colleges in Cameroon. In November we evaluated how our materials and training had been used, and assessed their educational impact. The results of those evaluations will be presented in 2009 as part of a new feature of Koko.org's African Updates: Conservation Education Project Reports. This month we want to describe a remarkable new application for our Koko education program that is emerging in parochial schools where hearing-impaired students are being educated.

The Baptist Community High School in Njinikejem, is one of 17 schools in North West Region (NWR) of Cameroon that have been applying our methods and using our materials. B.C.H.S Njinikejem was established as a technical college, but now includes academic streams for students working towards the UK system’s O and A level exams in preparation for university. It is located in a most beautiful scenic hilly area some 50 km northeast of the picturesque regional capital of Bamenda.

B.C.H.S. Njinikejem is a prototype campus for education of non-hearing children in Cameroon. The Baptist mission has had a primary school for deaf children for some time: four years ago deaf children were given the opportunity to join hearing secondary pupils at Njimikejem, where they are integrated into the regular educational system. Forty four deaf children presently attend the school – they live in the dormitories, have a small “learning resource room’ and two professional translators provided by the Baptist Health Board.

Church kids
School Chapel on Njinikejem Campus Njinikejem Secondary School


The translators are overstretched because the deaf children are scattered amongst all classes in the school, and also need special support in the community (e.g. to go to the local hospital where medical staff doesn’t know sign language.) Administrators and teachers at Njinikejem have been supplementing the insufficient professional support by pairing the deaf students with hearing students who are trying to learn American Sign Language (ASL) so they can help their hearing-impaired partners. This scheme has had limited success in that the motivation for hearing students to put in time learning ASL was relatively low – until Koko got involved!

mw Students
ASL Translators Student Partners in Deaf Students' Resource Room


When our Conservation Education field director, Penelope Fraser, was told about the great need to encourage the hearing students to learn sign language so that they can support their deaf peers, she organized and sent a quantity of KOKO ASL signing charts, books, and videos to the vice principal at Njinikejem. The result has been an increase in enthusiasm and improved learning by the hearing students and deaf students alike. In turn, the deaf students are finding their hearing partners to be more helpful in classroom understanding and everyday support.

A letter sent by the school Vice Principal to Ms. Fraser demonstrates the gratitude felt by everyone at the school:

Good day Madam Penny,

How is work and health? Hope you are doing fine.

I received the things you sent through your colleague. Mr Che Manasseh brought them to me on the 16th of November 2008. The list of things received include:

1) Koko's Kitten 1 copy
2) Koko-Love 1 copy
3) Who is Koko? 20 copies
4) Wild Life Protectors Fund charts on gorillas 20 copies
5) Basic Gorilla Life Charts 20 copies
6) Consuming Nature Charts 20 copies
7) Sign Language Charts 25 copies
8) Disk on Koko and Michael (& Kitten) 1 diskette

We are very grateful for the materials you sent to us and for the concern you have for the students of B.C.H.S Njinikejem. We pray that God Almighty will continue to bless you and your organization. Extend our heartfelt Gratitude to the Gorilla Foundation as well.

The students are really excited to see a Gorilla signing. We hope they will get more interested in signing as the days go by. Greetings from the B.C.H.S Njinikejem family.

Goodbye.

Vice principal Mrs. Nkfuninji Nji
Teacher


In 2009 we hope to send modest computer equipment, more materials and books, and a training facilitator to help the students extend their use of Koko’s learning resources. Improved communication and Information Technology skills along with support from hearing students schooled in basic ASL will give these deaf children a better chance to participate fully in school and society, and ultimately to support themselves. In addition, hearing students who previously had no interest in learning sign language are motivated by the excitement of learning from Koko; some of them are interested in continuing their ASL training with the goal of becoming translators for the deaf as a vocation.

We now regard the special program for building partnerships between hearing and non-hearing students at Njimikejem Baptist Community High School to be a high priority element of our Koko/Education efforts in Africa. Other schools devoted primarily to deaf student education have requested our involvement. Sister Mercy of the Catholic school for the deaf in Akum, a few km south of Bamenda has asked for our support and U.S. Peace Corps volunteers have begun similar programs in a school for the deaf in Cameroon’s Southwest Province. The potential for “conservation through communication” is extraordinary in these settings where Koko can teach young people to communicate in sign language and instil in them a mutual respect for all life on the planet.

With your support, that potential will be realized.

Students
Ms. Penelope J. Fraser
African Field Education Director
The Gorilla Foundation / Koko.org
mw
Dr. Anthony L. Rose
Director of Conservation
The Gorilla Foundation / Koko.org

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