A Nun Who Mastered Sign Language To Help The Hearing Impaired With Studies

In an idyllic countryside of Manickamangalam Kalady, there stands a school. Though its centrally located - 3kms from Cochin International Airport and 5kms from Ankamaly Railway Station- yet it's far from the maddening crowd of the city, providing a perfect ambiance for learning. But this school is just not any school, it's an institution with which a lot of dreams are attached. It has been a source of hope to the special kids and their parents since last 25 years.  

The name of the school is St Clare Oral Higher Secondary School For the Deaf, it is a government-aided residential school. It imparts general education and vocational training to deaf children along with that they also provide confidence to the students about their abilities, making them self-sufficient and self contained individuals. This year itself, three students from this school bagged full A+ in the SSLC and HSE exams. The school works really hard to make students excel in both curricular and co-curricular activities along with that groom them enough to help them fit in a “hearing” world.  mqs8any3ptt8yckhvvjvsnmbm8a2tp2n.jpg

“We mould our students in various platforms like sports, music, work experience and encourage them depending on their abilities. Our school has always been on top in the overall category of Kerala Special School Work Experience Fair for the past 10 years,” said Sr Abhaya Francis, school principal.

Behind the success of this school, one can't help but mention it's Principal, Sister Abhaya Francis. She started her career as a sign teacher at the St Clare Oral HSS For the Deaf, "The school was started in 1993 by Sr Annies Vallipalam, Sr Phincita and myself with a mere 8 students and presently, we have classes till 12th grade and we have 208 students studying here. In addition to regular schooling, now we have introduced job-ready courses like graphic designing and accountancy for our students," says Sr Abhaya while talking to Edexlive.


This lady has revolutionized the entire learning process for the hearing impaired students. Here are some achievements of this 48 year old nun.

1. Students excelling in studies

St Clare Oral Higher Secondary School For the Deaf, being a government aided institute for the hearing impaired, it still fares well compared to other regular government schools which struggle to get a 100 per cent success rate for secondary and higher secondary students. With help of Abhaya who is teacher and principal of that school along with other teachers, students have been achieving 100% result consistently, year after year.

2. Converting Malyalam into sign language

Initially parents were not very keen on kids learning sign language because they wanted their children to undergo surgery which would help them communicate like a regular kid. Slowly the perception towards sign language changed. But Sister Abhaya knew in order to make the kids understand better there was a pressing need for proper signs in the regional language. To counter the issue she with the help of others developed their own signs for certain words enabling the students to understand the concepts better.


3. Sign language App.

Sister Abhaya along with the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre, launched an app in July. The app, ISL Parenting's primary aim is to help parents of deaf children learn sign language and it is currently available in Malayalam, English and Hindi. They have been able to convert almost 1,500 phrases to sign language. Another key feature is that it can scan Malayalam words using a mobile camera and then convert it into a sign language, making life of these little children so much easier.

4. Language Interpreter

She is often asked to be a language interpreter for the hearing impaired individuals. Her wish to make public places more inclusive for people with hearing issues, she volunteers as a language interpreter for Holy Mass. Along with that whenever there's a case involving a hearing-impaired individual, the court summons Sr Abhaya to be the language interpreter. "I have appeared for the court hearings of deaf persons across Kerala. There was an instance where I was able to save a marriage because the deaf couple was able to communicate to the court with clarity. Apart from this, I regularly sign during holy communions," says Sr Abhaya to Edexlive.

5. Movie Connection

Along with the ones mentioned above she also helps movie stars prepare for a certain role in the movies. In Spirit, Mohanlal's friend's son, who acts as a deaf child, took signing lessons from her.

This nun’s commitment towards the hearing-impaired is praise-worthy. We hope that more and more people take a cue from her and help in rehabilitating kids with special needs.   

Picture Source: stclairedeafschool.org; edexlive.com


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