Story: Hadiza Nuhhu-Billa Quansah, Mampong-Akuapem
A deaf and blind student of the Demonstration School for the Deaf, Mampong-Akuapem in the Eastern Region, Sylvia Peprah, has defied deafness and blindness to become the first-ever such student to qualify for senior high school in the country.
Sylvia, 23, has been placed by the Computerised Schools Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) to continue her education at the Senior High Secondary/Technical School for the Deaf at Mampong-Akuapem.
Despite her disabilities, she devoted time to study and made history by writing the 2011 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) as the first student to sit a national examination since the Deafblind Centre was established in 1978.
At a sitting, Sylvia had grade five in English Language, three in Social Studies, five in Religious and Moral Education and five in Building Design and Technology.
She is currently pursuing a programme in General Arts, focusing on Christian Religious Studies, History, Economics, Social Studies, Integrated Science and English Language. Although Mathematics is a core subject, she has been exempted from it because of challenges she faces in identifying the symbols and formulae which are necessary for calculations.
Deafblindness is the condition of little or no useful sight and little or no useful hearing.
Sylvia, who formally started the Senior High Technical School for the Deaf last Tuesday, was received at the school in a unique and special way during an orientation exercise to introduce her to the students and teachers.
The Junior Graphic was, as usual, by her side to share in her joy, as it does with all children who go through great odds to achieve something tangible as they grow up.
Interestingly, some of the deaf students were touched by Sylvia’s condition and broke down in tears when they were told in sign language that Sylvia could not see nor hear, for which reason they should assist her regularly and also ensure they did not push her around to make things even more difficult for her in the school.
The SHS for the Deaf is mainly for students with hearing disabilities and so the main mode of communication is by sign language, which Sylvia has mastered, although she cannot see.
Since she has lost her sight, Sylvia uses the braille machine and also has a special resource person who interprets and guides her in her studies.
In an interview, Sylvia described herself as the Hellen Keller of the centre (Hellen Keller is the first deafblind to have excelled internationally in education).
Born on September 27, 1988, she became blind at the age of nine after falling ill for a long time. As a result, she can speak but cannot hear.
According to her, “I use tactile sign language, Braille and body printing to communicate.”
She was brought to the Demonstration School for the Deaf at age 13 in 2001 but placed under the Deafblind Centre.
She was later sent to the School for the Blind in 2006 to be taught the academic subjects and the excellent use of the Braille machine.
“Aside this, I have a personal interpreter, Mr Kom Frank Kafui from the centre, who has handled me for the past five years,” she said.
Sylvia is a native of Breman-Asikuma in the Central Region. She has a brother and a mother, Madam Lucy Peprah.
Sylvia says she loves and never misses her banku or fufu meals because they are her favourite. At the moment she teaches Bible Studies to the younger pupils at the school and hopes to be a teacher in future.
She is particularly grateful to Martha M. Majors and Marianne Riggio from the Perkins School for the Blind in the USA for their support throughout her education.