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Sonia, hard of hearing: “My future depends on going to college!"

Inclusion Rights
Burkina Faso

Sonia, 19, is visually and hearing impaired and attends a college adapted to her disability where she is studying for a diploma in hospitality. She is afraid that the COVID-19 pandemic will affect her plans for the future.

Sonia discussing with her former sign language teacher

Sonia discussing with her former sign language teacher | © HI

Extreme poverty

Sonia lives in Burkina Faso with her mother and seven brothers and sisters 30 kilometres from the country's capital, Ouagadougou, where she is studying hospitality. During the academic year, she lives with a host family next to her college.

Her family is extremely poor. Sonia's mother grows vegetables on a plot of land and breeds a few animals. She extracts sand and gravel to sell in the city. Her brothers and sisters work in the fields. Sonia also helps with the peanut crop when she is living with her family.

Going to college and learning a trade

Sonia will soon earn her diploma in hospitality, but her classes have been cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her school was closed for two months and now she is worried about her future:

"It's difficult for a person who is hard of hearing  like me to find a job because it’s not easy to communicate: when people don't understand what you're saying, or when you can't understand their ideas, they pigeonhole you automatically ...without thinking about what you are capable of."

Sonia often has problems communicating with her host family in Ouagadougou. The family goes the extra mile to make her feel welcome, but they find it quite hard to communicate because no one in the family knows sign language.

Obstacles to self-reliance

Living in a big city like Ouagadougou, where the traffic is very busy, is a challenge for Sonia. She's afraid to travel around alone, without help:

“I find it frightening when I move around by myself, especially on a bike, because of my disability. If someone blows their horn, I can't hear it and my vision is also very limited. I can ride my bike in the village, but in the city, it's very difficult for me. "

School closure: future in jeopardy?

Schools and colleges were closed for two months to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic and have only just reopened.  Sonia's was no exception.

“I’m wondering how the college closure is going to impact on my future. I have to take an exam this year and I don't want to miss it. I'm trying very hard to succeed. My future depends on this college. I really need my diploma. Besides, I miss my course and my classmates!"

After her diploma, Sonia plans to make her dream a reality by setting up and managing a small restaurant.

Date published: 11/06/20

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