On Being Deaf and Uneducated

Deaf + Uneducated + Poor

Being uneducated is a whammy. Being uneducated and deaf is a double whammy. Now, being POOR, UNEDUCATED and DEAF? WOW! In Tagalog, we say to that person, “inabot na sya ng sobrang kamalasan sa buhay” (has reached too much misfortune in life). A person who has never attended any formal education is most likely a poor person. Who else cannot have schooling except someone who cannot afford to study?

I opted not to mention the name of the deaf and the place where it happened in order to protect him and of course the family (not his) who’s supposed to defend him because they understand his situation. However, this issue hits us right in our own sense of compassion.

During our “house visits” stint just this April, the group visited the ancestral home of the father of one of the deaf. We were warmly greeted by the family, relatives and even next-door neighbors of the deaf. Too warm, in fact because we felt like we were campaigning for an elective post. We all shook hands with everyone we’ve met. Almost everybody knew we were coming. And that includes the local deafies.

A couple of them arrived. One was proudly posting his newly polished red motorbike and hurriedly left after seeing us. The other one was a scrawny, average looking, probably in late twenties guy, with bulging eyes and sporting a lighted cigarette who greeted us by his homegrown signs. We were told that he was some kind of a poor town clown or a town’s fool. Now, this is very degrading and humiliating for someone who’s only “misfortune” was unable to hear. He was a “kababata” (childhood friend) of my deaf student and was never schooled due to family hardships.

What really pissed me off is when people who are supposed to protect him because they have a deaf relative (our student), started to throw insults at him with their non-verbal gestures even right in front of us. To top off the embarrassment, a videoke microphone was handed over him and motioned him to sing! I cannot swallow such a reprehensible display of shame. Once he started to “sing”, a spontaneous laughter was heard from the audience. Loud, inaudible, often off-key and painful sounds echoed the whole place.

I said to myself that I have to do something about it. So, I showed my discontent to the owner of the videoke machine. Well, he felt that the humiliation was already enough so he got the mic and motioned the deaf to just sit and stay. Then, he offered him a strong beer for free which he eagerly accepted. I believe that’s the only reason why he came, to get a free beer. I then, tried to make some sense out of him by signing to him a few gestures that I know of. He understood. I told him not to do that again.

Not every day I see guys like him. I’m surrounded mostly by deaf who are very much nurtured even pampered by their families. But it is on these days where I find that life’s imperfectness are often created not by nature but by people like us. 😦


4 thoughts on “On Being Deaf and Uneducated

Add yours

  1. How sad. I have seen situations like that, too, where the Deaf person is isolated from his friends and schoolmates of the past and only sees hearing family members who give him very little attention or use him for inappopriate stunts like this.

    This is where the Deaf society supports their own just by sharing a common lifestyle and language. Education, training and community support goes such a long way with these people.

  2. Dianrez: It seems that this situation also happens in any country, whether rich or poor. It’s up to us to expose this and make people aware that there is such a thing.

  3. Sadly, too many deaf children — and children with all types of disabilities — are excluded from educational opportunities, especially in developing nations. (Have you seen the UNICEF report on children with disabilities in relation to the international Education For All effort?)

    It is also sad to see people exploiting and humiliating someone who already experiences so much discrimination and exclusion.

    Personally, though, I’m not sure how much it helps to tell the deaf person to “not do that” again — what else should he do? This may be the main way he knows to “earn” free beer for himself. Or, he may have learned that the only way to receive any kind of attention is to play along with other people’s poor treatment of him. For many people, even negative attention is better than total isolation, if that is the only alternative available to them.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see a simple solution. I do see *A* possible solution, but only with sustained effort — for example, intervening with each person individually to talk with them about how the community treats that person and to gently educate them about deaf people (for example, explaining why a deaf person’s voice sounds unusual from their perspective might help them understand it better and not derive as much amusement from it). Perhaps coupled with teaching the deaf person (and community members) some sign language; teaching literacy skills, job skills etc., so that the community will grow to see him as competent.

    But even though I can see a hypothetical solution, I realize that real-life circumstances (limited time and resources etc) may make it difficult to impossible to actually implement.

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