Chris Kubwimana: “Millions of deaf people do not have access to education.” How the charity Aurora Deaf Aid Africa was born

Posted on November 25, 2013

Aurora Deaf Aid Africa is a Deaf-led organisation which has grown from humble roots to work towards improving Deaf education and Deaf people’s social situation in Africa.

ADAA is a deaf led charitable organisation based in London and the reason we were formed in 2007 was to make a difference to the Deaf community in Africa.

I was motivated by the clear evidence I saw of the desperate needs of the Deaf community, particularly in Burundi, and my own experience of living and working with Deaf people in Africa.

The World Health Organization and the World Federation of the Deaf have highlighted that there are between 70 million and 200 million Deaf people in the world who do not have access to education – people who often have never learnt to read, write, sign or otherwise communicate.

In developing countries, at least 90% of Deaf people do not go to school. Many Deaf people in Africa face an almost overwhelming lack of access to education and employment, health care, political participation, social and family life.

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When comparing Burundi’s Deaf situation and my past work with Deaf people in other countries, in Africa there is clear evidence, and it can be clearly seen, that there is a concern regarding the plight of Deaf people in the country.

I visited Burundi after being away for more than 10 years, hoping to see development and progress. However I was surprised to see that in fact the country had taken steps backwards.


Burundi is classified by the World Bank as a poor country.

The statistics for Burundi are depressing; it is a country that went through several civil wars and there are not any known deaf services initiated by government.

The Association of the Deaf in Burundi estimates that there are more than 3000 Deaf school aged children, yet there are only missionary schools. This lack of adequate educational facilities is a major concern.

Obviously Deaf people, like other Disabled people in Burundi, are still the object of charity or missionary assistance. It is a major problem because there is an issue with the fact that the government are not prepared to fund the schools at all or provide any other basic services to this community.

Before the war there were few Deaf students but presently there are many more Deaf children. There are suggestions that the increase in numbers of Deaf children may have been triggered by exposure to loud sounds including bomb noise and shotgun blasts during the war in Burundi. However research is needed into this disturbing situation. The inadequate information and education facilities are a major concern.

It is often disturbing to witness that even in the 21st century people still discriminate against the Deaf and that governments are still unwilling to acknowledge their responsibilities to support Deaf people.

ADAA is here to stand firmly with Deaf people regardless of where they live; to pursue and stand up for their rights.

In this day and age Deaf people everywhere should have access not only to education but also be able to get a job, own a house and have a family.

A global presence, a growing mission

ADAA is still in its early development, and while our vision is to work in every country in Africa, our current focus is on Deaf Community in Burundi; we are currently working with the National Association of the Deaf there.

The needs of Deaf people in Africa are huge and require commitment to meet the challenges. ADAA has recent managed to raise some funds and this led to our first two small projects which we hope are paving the way for future major work.

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We have bought sewing machines for a new Tailoring Unit and also provide small loans to the Deaf community. These works are currently in place to enable Deaf people to earn a decent living by their own efforts and stop them begging on street.

We are planning for more projects including community development; supporting an increase in sign language interpreters and supporting deaf education.

Together we can make a lasting impact

At ADAA, we strive to work toward a world where education is within reach for every deaf children and young adults.

While ADAA aims to work in every town and with Deaf communities across Africa; it is not a “do it alone” organisation. I encourage individuals and other organisations to join in and work with us for the same cause in order to eliminate the barriers that prevent Deaf people from fully participating in social, political and economic activities and ensure that they do not continue to experience exclusion from the development program within their country.

We have been working with Disability Development Partners (DDP), an international development organisation; this has led to the first research of its kind conducted in Burundi, where there has never before been data available in relation to the Deaf community.

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Although DDP is a hearing-led organisation, it has shown a great passion for working with Deaf children and their families in Burundi. Their involvement has also led to a Deaf secondary school being opened and other income-generating activities programmes.

Whether you are D/deaf or hearing you can help – whether you are a student or professional, whether you are familiar with the Deaf community or not. You can help; you can make a lasting difference.

Remember the blessings you have and also remember the ability you have to influence social changes for the betterment of our world.

Further than the ability, you have a duty to speak and help those who lack my blessed wealth of education, equal rights, free speech and so forth.

This is my goal… to make an impact on this world.

To find out more about Aurora Deaf Aid Africa, go to:

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Posted in: Chris Kubwimana