Yesterday, I (Ryan) got the opportunity to go visit a Deaf school here in Ouagadougou. Let me share some of my experience with you.
Fulgence, my French tutor had some contact with the school, called Centre d’Education et de Formation Intégrée des Sourds et des Entendants (CEFISE), which means “Center for Integrated Education and Formation of Deaf and Hearing”. He had arranged for us to go and meet the Director-General, Thérèse Kafando. Madame Kafando was very gracious, and very anxious to tell us all about their school.
CEFISE has three locations in Ouagadougou, serving over 3,800 students in total. At the location where we visited, they had over 500 deaf students. Their philosophy is to promote integration between Hearing and Deaf, so that no one is left out in any situation. We found out that Andrew Jackson Foster, the legendary Deaf missionary from America, also worked in Burkina Faso; he established the first Deaf school here, too.
After meeting Mme. Kafando, she took us to meet Pastor Rafael Ouedraogo. Rafael is the school chaplain, as well as the school’s audiologist and resident hearing-aid technician. Rafael first got into work with the Deaf when he was teaching Sunday school, and two deaf children showed up, and no one could communicate with them. He said he has been earnestly praying for God to send more people to Ouagadougou to minister to the Deaf, and he was almost tearful as he said that it seems like God has answered his prayer by sending us here.
While we were talking with Rafael, he was speaking French, but also signing in Burkinabé Sign Language, which looks a lot like American Sign Language, but adapted for Burkina Faso, and dependent on French rather than English. It was a challenge for my brain to process both sets of language input at the same time, but I was able to keep up!
After chatting a bit, Rafael took us to visit his lab, where they have a soundproof testing chamber. Fulgence got his first-ever (abbreviated) hearing test! We also saw Rafael’s work-bench where he fabricates hearing-aid molds for the children.
Then, he took us to meet the school psychologist, who is deaf, and the speech therapist, who is hearing. This week is the school testing period before summer holidays, so we were not able to talk to any students or visit any classrooms, unfortunately.
Both Mme. Kafando and Rafael expressed their gratitude for the work God has placed before us, and welcomed me warmly to their school campus. Rafael also said that he is going to try to get us invited to a wedding he will be performing in July for a Deaf couple!
All in all, it was a mentally challenging, but very rewarding visit; hopefully I will get to visit CEFISE again in the future. Please pray for the school, the students, and Rafael and all who seek to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Deaf in Burkina Faso!