The School for the Deaf in Mango Town, Virginia, Montserrado County is a vision perceived by its coordinator, Mr. Andrew Tugbeh. Mr. Tugbeh dreams of a day when the institution will be transformed and embraced as a source of national pride.
But that dream could die in its early stages due to the burden of financial problems being faced by the administration. The sources of these problems are the present uptick of students being enrolled coupled with the absence of essential instructional materials.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer at the school’s Mango Town campus, Mr. Tugbeh revealed that he has launched an SOS (Save Our Souls) to relevant authorities including the Ministry of Education (MOE), friends of Liberia in sympathy with deaf students, and national and international philanthropic donors. Mr. Tugbeh hopes the institution receives the needed assistance to construct a fence around the campus and address its outstanding challenges among other things.
The School for the Deaf is located on a 5-acre of stretch of land in Mango County, Virginia, Monsterrado County. It has a dormitory annex divided between male and female students, an academic complex, and a playing pitch among other facilities.
Even though it was established several years ago with the admirable goal of offering primary school education to Liberia’s deaf children, the School for the Deaf still lacks many things. The school does not have any medical facilities or electricity. The absence of electricity on the campus, according to Mr. Tugbeh, hampers the learning of the student at night because, “the deaf communicate through the use of sign language; this is practically impossible in the dark.”
“The campus is completely exposed without a fence. This makes the students vulnerable to a number of dangers including— but not limited to—- intruders who often invade the privacy of the deaf students during the night. Without a fence some of the young students run into the nearby communities unnoticed by the administration. These young deaf students are often taken advantage of and forced to engage in unnecessary labor for the residents of the town,” Mr. Tugbeh lamented.
According to him, while the boys’ dormitory was yet to undergo the repairs needed after being devastated by 14 years of Liberia’s civil crisis, 48 of the students (24 being female) live in the dormitory, while only six are living off-campus.
Though the school was established just like any other ordinary academic institution, it is being run through the collection of registration fees from students and subsidies from the government through the Ministries of Education and Health and Social Welfare.
From the registration fees, the administration has been able to introduce the teaching of trades including tailoring and practical agriculture.
“The students,” Mr. Tugbeh said, “put their agricultural activities into practice on a single acre of land on campus which contains vegetables.”
Aside from the improvement of that one acre of land with vegetables, Mr. Tugbeh disclosed that a vast area of the land space (outside the campus) is being cultivated by the students with cassava, plantain, eddoes and ears of corn.
“The students are well-fed three times daily with food sometimes given by the donor community, banking institutions and the office of the President,” Mr. Tugbeh declared.
In spite of all that good feeding, there are still impediments, some of which the administration attributed to the refusal of many parents to come pick-up their children from campus whenever the school is closed for vacation.
“Most of the parents do not come for their children whenever school is closed. This situation creates further burden in terms of feeding and the provision of extra care for the students during vacation,” said Mr. Tugbeh.
The school is run by five voluntary and qualified teachers. Three of them have no hearing restraints, but they are being trained to use sign language and serve as interpreters in order to communicate with their students and the rest of the staff members-who have hearing impediments.
The principal for the School of the Deaf, Joshua Saykerproh, and the Registrar, Christian Gobisi are among those whose names are yet to be placed on the government payroll.
“The need to place the names of the voluntary teachers working with the School of the Deaf cannot be over-emphasized, it is an issue of urgency,” Mr. Tugbeh asserted.
With all the challenges the institution is facing, thankfully, it has not altogether been forgotten. The students recently benefited from a community directed treatment campaign.
The treatment included the taking of Ivermectizan and Albendazole to de-worm the students as well as some of the staffers.
The medication was provided through the supervision of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH/SW) under the “Neglected Tropical Diseases” (NTD) Program.
To properly administer the medications, each of the students (depending on the age), is given one or two tablets of the Albendazole and/or Ivermectizan.
The exercise is carried out once every year during the academic calendar.