Books and projectors top pupils' wish-list

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 December, 2006, 12:00am

Hearing-impaired children want a new visual and broadcasting system to help communication

The students need extra books and they need new lighting, so that they can read one another's lips better and those of their teachers and visitors.

Sitting in the colourful library, Chun Tok School headmistress Lai Ma-har encourages her students, most of them hearing-impaired, to speak about their wishes - from Operation Santa Claus and from life in general.

Despite language training since they were in kindergarten, verbal communication is not easy for these students. Pronunciation is hard to grasp because of their hearing impairment. Sentences tend to be shorter.

'I wish there could be more books about design, as many of us are interested,' said Form Five student Lee Shuk-yan. 'But more importantly, we need projectors and amplifiers. If teacher does not speak loudly, we can hardly hear. With projectors [showing his face], we can see the teachers' lips and understand what he says.'

Chun Tok School, founded in 1935, offers education and supporting services to hearing-impaired students. It was formerly called the Hong Kong School for the Deaf.

Since 2004, the school has emphasised 'integrative education', admitting students with no hearing impairment into its primary section, which has 130 pupils. Ninety-six students, mostly hearing-impaired, study in the secondary section.

Through Operation Santa Claus, the school wants to have a new central visual and broadcasting system to replace the existing one which has not been updated since 1960. It also wants an improved lighting system in the open platform, basketball court and backyard to aid social interaction through lip-reading. Coffee chain Pacific Coffee Company is also collecting English-language story books for the students at its outlets.

'Chun', in Chinese, means truth in Christian faith. 'Tok' refers to a big bell.

'We hope to spread truth and love to our students' hearts, regardless of whether they are hearing-impaired or not,' Ms Lai said.

Communication goes beyond words. The school believes drama is a good way for students to express ideas and practise speaking. In library reading schemes, students are not only asked to read but 'to write a script and act it out'.

Last year, they joined the Inter-school Drama Festival and won awards. 'We did not choose pantomime. We want to practise speaking,' says Cheung Chui-fong, 'It was hard. If we do not speak well, we just keep trying.'

Ms Lai said: 'Outsiders are sometimes mistaken. My students are not deaf-mute, they are just hearing-impaired. Hearing aids have greatly reduced their disability and made their education path and livelihood approach normal. It helps them to integrate into the 'ordinary'.'

Indeed, impairment does not hinder students' career paths. Most graduates continue with Form Six or study design or business at the Hong Kong Institute for Vocational Training.

'Probably because they cannot hear clearly, they concentrate better and develop sharper eyes than others,' Ms Lai said. 'Many of our students work in interior design, stage setting and fashion design after graduation. Current students are given placement from a week to one month in clerical jobs.'

Students regard the school as their 'second home'.

'It's like we are a big family. We go through ups and downs together and share our deepest feelings,' student Wong Yin-hei said to nods of agreement from others.

Most students spend years together, from kindergarten to secondary school, at the same campus. Class size is limited to a maximum of 10.

Looking ahead, many students express the wish to study overseas and improve their English.

'I want to further my studies in Canada,' Chui-fong said. 'If I am equipped with better English, it will definitely help my future.'

They also want more English books in their library - it only has a small collection now.