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Running head: INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT EVENT

International Development Event


Phoebe Tay
Gallaudet University

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT EVENT


International Development Event
1. Name of Event:
Presentation by Monica Tenai YALI fellow at the National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
2. Date of Event:
Tuesday 23rd September 2014
3. Why did you choose to attend this event?
I was interested in hearing about Monica Tenais work in Kibera and her efforts to
empower Deaf women, and sensitize public and private enterprises towards adopting and
implementing disability and gender friendly programs and policies.
4. Who did you meet while you were at the event?
I met Monica Tenai, the presenter, Gallaudet faculty, and other students who were
attending the presentation.
5. Write a two-page summary of the event describing the purpose of the event, the main
topics of the event, information that was new to you, what was most interesting, and
anything you might not have understood or did not agree.
The event was an eye-opener for me and extremely inspirational. The purpose of the
event was for Ms Monica Tenai, the presenter to share her life journey as an African Deaf
woman in Kibera, her YALI fellowship, her experience as an intern with the NAD, and how she
has worked to improve outcomes and quality of life for Deaf people in Kenya.
Ms Tenai became deaf at 10 years old and her parents were at a loss as to what to do.
They found it difficult to accept that she had become deaf. Her father accepted her deafness
shortly after but her mother took a longer time to come to terms with it. Ms Tenai continued her
enrollment in the regular school until standard 5. She then went to a secondary school for the

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT EVENT

Deaf and then to a regular college to study Early Childhood Development where she was the
only Deaf person. She worked to fund her studies at college.
Later on, she applied to The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African
Leaders, an initiative by U.S. President Obama to invest in the future of Africa. 500 young
Africans were selected for the program out of approximately 50,000 applicants. Of the 500
successful applicants, only 2 were Deaf. Ms Tenai was one of the 2 who was picked.
The 500 Mandela Washington Fellows arrived in June 2014 for 6 weeks of intensive
executive leadership training, networking, and skills building. Through the program, young
African leaders gain the skills and networks they need to advance their career prospects and
contribute further to strengthening democratic institutions, promoting economic growth, and
enhancing peace and security in Africa. Ms Tenai went to Yale University in Connecticut for 6
weeks where she learnt more about business, financial management and development work. She
was also exposed to soup kitchens which are food centers in America where food is offered to
the poor for free or at below market price. After the 6 weeks training program, all the 500
fellows had to meet President Obama at the Presidential Summit in Washington, DC. From there
100 of the 500 Africans were selected to remain in the U.S for an internship while the rest
returned to Africa. Ms Tenai secured an internship at the NAD. There, Ms Tenai was mentored
by a Deaf professional. She learnt about youth leadership and how to be a role model to other
people. She claimed that her perspective changed during her time in NAD.
Ms Tenai shared the challenges that Deaf people in Africa faced such as lack of access to
captions, no video relay phones, lack of interpreters, and interpreter training. Deaf students at
university had to pay for their educational fees as well as for their own interpreters, so many of
them resort to copying notes from hearing students instead. Also, in Africa, many Deaf women

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT EVENT

marry when they reach adulthood and start a family. Many of them do not receive the education
they need and she stressed that it was important for Deaf women to be educated and empowered.
After sharing about her story about The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young
African Leaders, Ms Tenai shared about her work as a teacher of deaf children in Kibera. She
showed the audience a video on youtube titled Deaf role models in Africa, Kenya. In the
video, Ms Tenai, explained that her classroom at Little Rock Early Childhood Development
Center (ECD) had hearing children, Deaf children and children with other disabilities from ages
3 to 8. The school was set up to provide education for the vulnerable kids of the Kibera slum.
In the process, they came across a Deaf child bringing lunch to his sister who was
enrolled at the school each day. They asked the parents why the child was not at school. When
the parents said that they could not afford to send him to a Deaf school, Little Rocks ECD started
to include Deaf children and those with disabilities in their educational programs. The school has
strong home-school connections and ensures that the parents are involved in their Deaf childs
education. They also educate hearing parents on the benefits of including Deaf children in the
program, when concerns were raised by the parents with hearing kids. It was also mentioned that
many parents keep their Deaf children at home so the school promoted the importance of
education for Deaf children.
In the school, some of the hearing children had Deaf parents and all of the children were
taught sign language regardless of their ability to hear or their disability. The school adopted an
inclusive education philosophy. Ms Tenai said that it was important for Deaf children to be part
of the hearing community or else they would feel isolated. The video also showed her teaching
sign language to a class of hearing kids at the school.

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT EVENT

I was surprised to learn that Kenya had recognized Kenyan Sign Language as an official
language and that an inclusive education center such as Little Rock that promoted equality
between Deaf and hearing children actually existed. It made me question why Singapore, being a
developed country, did not have such a school that adopted the inclusive education policy in any
of its schools nor encouraged the use of sign language. Watching Ms Tenai share her journey as
a Deaf educator in Kenya and her life-changing experience during her internship in America
were the most interesting aspects for me. Learning about Little Rock ECD welled up emotional
sentiments in me. It also made me a little angry as I felt that the Singapore government was not
doing enough or putting in enough effort to ensure that Deaf children have full access to the best
opportunities.
As a trained teacher of the Deaf myself, I am a strong advocator of the inclusive
education philosophy because I believe that the hearing and Deaf worlds do not exist as two
separate worlds. Rather, they are two cultures in one world. Currently, there is a strong push for
multicultural education and anti-bias in schools in America. I believe that Deaf and hearing
children should be integrated with sign language as the language of instruction in the classroom,
so that both Deaf and hearing children can have full access to communication and equality
between both groups are promoted.
I also spotted the school motto: Turning early years scars into stars in the video. Seeing
those words really touched my heart because it meant that no matter how hopeless or dire the
childrens circumstances are or were previously, an inclusive education at Little Rock ECD gave
them the chance to turn their lives around. It gave them the opportunity to achieve their full
potential and to blossom as individuals.
6. How will the information you learned here help you in your future career?

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT EVENT

The information that I learned from Ms Tenais presentation will help me in my future
career as an international development worker in several ways. It is my desire to improve and
evaluate Deaf education programs for Deaf children and Deaf adults in countries around the
world. I will always have the inclusive philosophy of Little Rock ECD Center at the back of my
mind - that if a poverty-stricken place like Kibera can be successful in implementing an inclusive
education center and overcome the odds they face, then more inclusive education centers can be
established anywhere else in the world as long as the right professionals are in place in those
educational settings. I will also refer to the Little Rock ECD Center as a successful model of
inclusive education when advocating for equality of rights for Deaf children, and the value of
and their right to access a basic education in sign language in different countries.
Ms Tenai is also an example of a Deaf role-model to many Deaf women and girls in
developing countries. She has demonstrated resilience despite the obstacles she has faced in her
life. The fact that she is a highly educated and confident Deaf young woman shows what a huge
difference it can make when more Deaf women are educated. They can be advocates of social
justice and agents of positive change in their societies. This inspires me to encourage more Deaf
girls and women all over the world to achieve an education. I would like to advocate for their
rights to access a sign language education in my future work.

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