Hearing-impaired children’s needs are not met

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There are many conventions and domestically adopted laws in the field of ensuring children’s rights. Their implementation, especially the living conditions of children in schools, was investigated by members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Public services provided to children need to be equitable and accessible. Children have the right to receive services that complies with the standards, regardless of the area, space, and circumstances in which they live. However, the research of the NHRC revealed that the conditions of some schools in the capital city, provinces, soums, and out-settlements are poor.

In addition, the NHRC concluded that the policy of the Ministry of Education and Science does not apply to boarding schools. In particular, the government’s education policy for hearing-impaired children is poor, and the curriculum of the Special School No.29 has not been properly defined based on research. The curriculum of teaching does not focus on teaching sign language to children with hearing or speech impairments or providing education through sign language. Focusing on teaching children to make sounds and speak is not an optimal solution. It was also concluded that the conditions of the boarding school are indifferent and do not fulfill the rights of children. Representative of the NHRC G.Narantuya said, “The inspection conducted by the commission is not aimed at holding any official response, but at making positive changes in the field of ensuring the right of students to education before the start of the next academic year. Because serious violations of children’s rights were found, the demand of a member of the commission was submitted to the management of Special School No.29 based on the results of the inspection. We will check again in the 2023 to 2024 academic years to find out whether the requirements have been met.”

Based on the results of the survey, we reported the proceedings of the school of Special School No.29. A total of 273 students are studying in the school in the 2022 to 2023 academic year. 44 percent of those children are from the countryside and 56 percent are from Ulaanbaatar. 100 students from Ulaanbaatar and 21 provinces live in the boarding school. 43 percent of them are girls and 57 percent are boys. When we visited at the end of last week, the principal of the school informed us that there were 95 children in the boarding school. It has not been long since the third term began, so some children have not yet arrived from the countryside.

The boys’ boarding school was commissioned in 2006. The building where the girls live was commissioned in 1989. Since then, no major repairs have been made. That’s why children are cold in winter and feel chilly in spring and autumn. The parents also pointed out that the heating is good, but the building loses heat due to its old deterioration, and the boarding school is cold throughout the year. There were many areas where the wallpaper was peeling, and the paint was peeling. In particular, the students said that the roof leaks a lot. The plumbing seems to have deteriorated and the insulation is not very good.

Moreover, two to six children live in one room. When we entered one of them, there was a single cabinet with three doors, a table, and a chair. There were uneven chairs, tables with broken edges, cabinets with doors that are about to fall apart, and tottering beds. In general, the furniture in the boarding school is quite old. Sometimes the teachers give money from themselves to repair and refuel. The KOICA donated used furniture with other international organizations to improve the boys’ dormitory.

Since 1989, no major repairs have been made to the boarding school of Special School No.29. Therefore, an employee of the organization that conducted the survey said the roof of the building has deteriorated significantly. In other words, the layers of the roof have deteriorated and become moldy, and the safety strip has rusted and dried up. 13 million MNT is budgeted for the running costs of schools and dormitories. But because the money does not go to where it is supposed to be, they only make repairs that are easy to see. In addition, successive principals of the school have presented the conclusion of professional organizations on building repair and maintenance to the relevant ministries, and have been developing projects and programs. However, it seems that the ministers take the official documents and forget.

According to the investigation by the NHRC, violations of children’s rights have been found in the boarding school and one of them was that it did not create an environment for the child to develop. Indeed, there is no child development room in the boarding school. A TV was placed in a room with a distance of three meters. Children tend to struggle to watch TV there. There is no other room for children to stay and spend their leisure time effectively. Originally, there were many dolls, but during COVID-19, they were all thrown away to maintain hygiene. However, it seems that the non-governmental organization “Eyreg Davalgaa” gave many books to children, which now allows them to spend their free time effectively. In addition, the children pointed out that an electronic library was created and video content was prepared for their age. Because young children living in boarding schools are considered not yet ready to fully participate in social interaction, they are not allowed outside except for classes. Senior and middle school students can go to the basketball court behind the boarding school.

Peer bullying is relatively rare in Special School No.29. However, it is not uncommon for children to argue. Therefore, the school social worker and psychologist also work in the school. Because they have limited opportunities to reach all the children, they have started to employ an additional psychologist in the boarding school. However, they are employed on a three-month contract, not permanently. In general, because the salary of school teachers and staff is too low, it is said that few people work there permanently. For example, the salary of teachers and staff has increased by 30 percent recently. Main teachers are currently paid 1,050,000 MNT, boarding school teachers 911,449 MNT, assistant teachers 757,905 MNT, and janitors and other service workers are paid even less.

The NHRC also reported that the quality of food is poor and some children are not satisfied. When asked about this, the relevant people said that the money for the “Lunch” program is a bit more than other schools. For example, students of grades first grade to 12th grade eat 2,400 MNT lunch per day. The elementary school students living in the boarding school get 4,000 MNT a day, and the senior students 4,300 MNT a day. In addition to the “Lunch” program, students eat five meals a day. But children often complain that they are hungry. Therefore, the relevant officials of the school decided to recalculate the food ingredients and calories.

The NHRC inspected the operation of the school and asked the children certain questions and made several demands. For example, the school director S.Batmyagmar has made an internal assessment of the quality of education and activities and has requested to solve it within the framework of management and organization. They also demanded to improve the sign language skills of teachers and staff, to improve classrooms and facilities for school sections, clubs, and extracurricular activities, and to hold officials responsible for the violation of children's rights in boarding schools.

Nonetheless, after half a day of talking with the boarding school children, they expressed different opinions, both positive and negative. The issue of teachers hitting, shaking, and pulling the blankets to wake up the children was mentioned in the results of the investigation by the NHRC. S.Batmyagmar, who took over the position of the director of the Special School No.29 last January, explained, “Teachers don’t wake up children aggressively. When the teacher calls the children, they don’t hear because of hearing loss. Therefore, some young teachers are inexperienced and touch the child by pulling the blanket or gently slapping them. During the day, the light installed above the door of the room blinks and tells “It’s time for class” and “It’s time for lunch.” Bathing rooms can also be accessed from the outside. In case the children slip or fall during the bath, they will not be heard by slamming the door. Therefore, it is prevented.”

However, he said that it is difficult to improve the availability of teachers. There are currently six retired teachers working in the school. Also, university graduates stay and work here. Special School No.29 faces a shortage of human resources sometimes and it's because sign language isn't taught in universities. Therefore, the new graduate learns sign language from the senior teachers only after joining Special School No.29. In the Mongolian National University of Education, there has been a class open for teachers with sign language since last January. Therefore, the school officials said that they hope that the problem of the lack of teachers will be solved in the future.

Dashmaa D