An Eleven -year-old Irene Nansubuga is a pupil at the Ntinda based Uganda School for the Deaf. She repeatedly pulls off her face mask to communicate with her peers and teachers.
“It (the facial mask) is disturbing me. I cannot communicate well with my friend with it on. Every time you need to lower it. At times you forget it only to be reminded by a colleague. In class, it’s worse as you cannot effectively communicate with the teacher,” Nanteza signs in despair.
Just like Nansubuga and other learners, the teachers also wear face masks in line with the Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Ministry of Education and Sports.
Juliet Mary Tumuhairwe, the headteacher of Uganda School for the Deaf said that wearing a facial mask is very challenging for her group of learners as they cannot fully understand or interpret what the teacher is communicating with them.
Reading lips and facial expressions are vital for learners with hearing impairments. To some people forcing learners with hearing impairment to wear face masks is the direct exclusion of the already marginalized group.
Ivan Mugoya, a primary seven teacher, says both learners and teachers cannot effectively express some words like whom, serious, lips and show colours such as white with a mask on. He said that expressing emotions is impossible because they are done simultaneously with the mouth and face.
To ensure that teaching and learning take place, Mugoya said they have bent the rules so that at least the teacher removes his or her mask during the lesson. However, there are limitations to this.