This article has been published in Enabling Education 10
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Title: Changing the Way we Teach, Burkina Faso
Author: Imerovic, S
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2006

Selena Imerovic

What is the best way to educate deaf children? Many believe in an inclusive approach, bringing deaf and hearing children into same classroom. This was the idea behind the establishment of CEFISE (Integrated Education and Training Centre for Deaf and Hearing People) in 1988, by Pastor Kafando in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. CEFISE is one of the leaders of the inclusive approach in Burkina Faso, and has long experience in educating pupils with and without hearing impairment at preschool, primary and secondary levels. In this article, Selena outlines some of the approaches used to encourage and support teachers to think in a different way about teaching and learning.

CEFISE is using ‘total communication’. This means that teachers communicate simultaneously through the spoken word and sign language. Deaf children, who rarely have hearing aids, usually struggle to follow lessons given in French, especially when they have not even mastered their mother tongue, Moore.

Photo by: Danladi Mamman, GCEN

Karlet Ouedraogo, a pupil from an inclusive classroom says of her experience: “I have one friend from another school who thinks there should be one school for deaf children and one for us. I don’t agree. There is no difference between us. I don’t argue with my deaf friend Aida. I learn to use sign language and she learns to speak.”

There is no academic institution for educating special teaching personnel in Burkina Faso. CEFISE therefore created a training programme for teachers to prepare them for the special and inclusive education programmes. The training has four modules and offers specific knowledge and skills in creating and implementing curriculum and teaching techniques, including psychology and basic audiology and speech therapy.

One of CEFISE’s aims is to develop sign language skills in local communities. Through workshops, participants are able to learn finger spelling, signing, cued speech and to practise conversations with deaf people. The course offers rich sign vocabulary and is continuously being developed by CEFISE staff. So far, more than 200 people have participated in this initiative and have contributed to the integration process. This training is also offered to the CEFISE teachers.

Fidel Zouma, a primary teacher says:
“Training helped me a lot at the beginning of my teaching work, but as work with deaf children involves considerable emotional and physical demands, we need continuous training.”

Issa Tiendrébeogo, a teacher of an inclusive class adds:
“The co-operation with a deaf teacher helps me a lot. Teaching should be supported also by a diverse range of curriculum materials.”

long-term ambitions include achieving a better education for the children by supporting the continued development of high quality teacher training. A new initiative (started in January 2006), in close collaboration with the international NGO International Service, takes the challenge of dealing with deafness and inclusive education in five new directions:

  • providing access to information for the teachers through Internet research. We support understanding that this online learning leads to continued motivation, engagement and innovation in the schools.
  • providing insight into a variety of non-formal education techniques, and the kind of learning appropriate to each one, on topics like: communication skills; team-building; building trust and self-esteem; feeling social inclusion and exclusion. This helps to promote participatory learning, co-operation and interaction between classrooms.
  • ensuring an environment where positive emotions and creative abilities can be emphasised through verbal and non-verbal ways. This encourages the child’s simultaneous use of speech and sign language, as well of all other visual, creative and contextual cues.
  • developing a teaching programme and strategies that increase a school’s capacity to teach effectively on topics like art and sport, health education, human rights, ecology/environment, gender, etc.
  • seeking the participation of teachers and parents in daily activities, with the aim of deepening their understanding of their children’s problems, exploring solutions and motivating them to act. Involvement of parents should ensure that the child’s learning is supported at home.

CEFISE’s teacher training workshops

Workshops with teachers are organised on a regular basis (usually every two weeks), although we are still developing our techniques as we go. We start with a session that helps teachers to work together in a more informal way than they are used to – this is the best way to foster a culture of sharing. We also try to help the teachers to free themselves from the constraints of their current way of working and context, in order to develop a vision of what they would like education to look like (instead of being fixed on what it currently looks like).

We use the workshops to give teachers an insight into the variety of (non-formal) techniques that can and should be used for teaching/learning (e.g. icebreakers, brainstorms, group and pair activities, role play, using visual images and games, etc). We get them to discuss how they feel as workshop participants/learners, and we ask them to discuss ways of learning in the workshop and rules for making the workshop positive and constructive for everyone. We then ask teachers to carry out an assignment – running a ‘workshop’ in their classes, on a specific topic related to the curriculum (e.g. human rights). This helps them to see that the active-learning workshop techniques are indeed relevant and useful for making their classrooms more inclusive places to learn.

Our workshops also cover topics such as:

  • how to ensure participation and co-operative learning in an inclusive classroom
  • how to avoid one-way communication
  • the importance of a cross-curriculum approach (e.g. the importance of art teaching and creative activities in all subjects)
  • “I can handle them” (how to ensure discipline in classrooms with 60 or more pupils)
  • the importance of ongoing relationships with parents

We would like to use this opportunity to invite you to exchange ideas with us, and together find new solutions to help teachers in their daily work towards inclusive education. If you would like to know more about our workshops, please contact us. And if you have suggestions or materials that could help us develop our work, we’d love to hear from you!

Selena is an International Service Capacity Builder, working with CEFISE.
International Service
BP 6143
Ouagadougou 01
Burkina Faso