Rangit Thambyrajah and Oru Paanai "Let them hear"
Teacher at work
God has given us eyes to see the beauty of his creation and ears to hear the whisper of nature. One cannot imagine a life without seeing and hearing. But life is not always what we expect. For some reasons, destiny is unkind to some, dragging them into misery. What is required, are kind and generous hearts helping them to lead a normal life.
The Nuffield School for the Deaf and Blind at Kaithady, Jaffna run by the Church of Ceylon (along with the Deaf and Blind schools in Ratmalana) is one such place looking after children who became differently able. Education was not thought of for the handicapped children and the responsibility was passed on to the Social Services, not the Education department. Nuffield School in particular was badly affected during three decades of internal conflict as it was placed in a vulnerable part of the Northern Province. It was built in 1956 in the outskirts of Jaffna Peninsula similar to Tuberculosis and Leprosy institutions away from the main population centres as the Sri Lanka society’s perception of disabled was similar to infectious diseases.
Dr Tony Sirimanna,( Clinical Director and Consultant Audio-Vestibular Consultant Physician at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children-GOSH at the time ) a close friend of mine since our medical school days called me one day in November 2011( whilst I was away in Toronto for my Mum’s 90th Birthday) to attend the DABAL( Deaf and Blind Lanka Aid ) AGM the following Saturday in London. The vision was born when I met Tony and Mrs Anne East, a retired head teacher of a school for the Deaf in UK to make Nuffield School, a Model Unit for deaf Education in the North of Sri Lanka. Mrs Anne East has already been in Sri Lanka and had worked at the Rohana school in Matara.
Through Oru Paanai ( One Pot ) a registered charity in UK, Feeding the Hungry since 2009, we had been helping the Kaithady school children with regular visits twice yearly. Twice in the past 10 years we went as a team consisting of an Audiology Physician, (Dr Tony Sirimanna and Dr Augustus Thambapillai) Audiologists,(Ushalini and Ramya) Paediatrician ( Dr Elmo Thambapillai) ,General Physician ( Dr Dan Muthuveloe) ,ENT Surgeon ( myself) and Volunteers visiting the school. We carried out General and ENT assessments, Audiological assessments and fitted Programmed digital hearing aids to children who can be helped with very powerful hearing aids. We provided training of an IT teacher to carry out audiology tests, programme digital hearing aids and also funded his visit to go to Chennai to be trained to make hearing aid moulds. We built a Hearing Aid mould making laboratory in the school premises. We also provided the school with ENT Clinic equipment, ear syringing facilities, Audiometers for testing the hearing, hearing aid programming software and equipment needed for programming of the hearing aids. The different brands of hearing aids that we take with us need different programming software and it has been a mammoth task to find the software as companies keep updating their software and a licence fee payment is required for the continued use of the software. The Audiologists who came with the team trained the local teachers to carry out hearing tests and the IT teacher was trained to carry out the programming of the hearing aids. The BMA Humanitarian Project provided funding for successful worldwide projects and twice the Kaithady project was selected and I was granted £3,000 and £2,000 in 2012 and 2014 with which we provided audiology equipment to school. The Plymouth medical students who visited the school also funded a Braille machine for the use of blind children.
Fund Raising at BMA
We extended the programme to a school in Vanni and a disabled school in Mannar and provided the children with hearing aids. We have established good rapport with the Jaffna Hospital ENT surgeons and provided them with Otoacoustic Emission ( OAE) testing equipment to test hearing in newborns and also a new Automated Brain Stem Response Audiometry (ABR) costing costing £25,000 to Killinochchi hospital. Parallel with our Audiology services Mrs Anne East has visited the school twice a year for four years and conducted Teacher Training courses as the teachers never had training in teaching hearing impaired children. Following her last visit she also prepared a Teacher training video in Tamil to be followed by the teachers in the future.
Children at lunch.
Parallel with our Audiology services Mrs Anne East has visited the school twice a year for four years and conducted Teacher Training courses as the teachers never had training in teaching hearing impaired children. Following her last visit she also prepared a Teacher training video in Tamil to be followed by the teachers in the future.
The late Dr Padman Ratnesar, who was instrumental in providing an audiology building plan for the Ratmalana Deaf and Blind school also wanted a similar building for the Nuffield school but as the building has now been provided by Dialogue we have now provided a van for the children to be transpor ted costing £45,000 which was made possible by a Fund Raising Lunch event held in London in October 2019 along with the support of the UK Hearing Conservation Council. As we had free education in Sri Lanka we felt we need to give something back to our “HOME” and this is one of the ways we were able to help the needy in Sri Lanka. Rangit Thambyrajah