Providing education for east african deaf children   

80% of the world’s 70 million deaf people do not have access to education

"Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world."  -- Nelson Mandela


  • Less than 1% of 38,400 deaf children in Tanzania go to school.
  • 80% of the world’s 70 million deaf people do not have access to education.
  • There are few deaf or fluent signing teachers or interpreters in Tanzania.
  • Parents report their deaf children are often turned away from schools that have deaf units because they are full and not accepting new students.
  • The majority of deaf children reside in remote rural villages. Since there are few schools qualified to serve deaf students, this creates a logistical problem for many rural families who cannot afford to have a child travel far distances.
  • Deaf children are often kept at home because it is too dangerous for the child to walk or take the limited transportation available to get to a school with a deaf unit. This inaccessibility contributes to parents keeping their deaf children out of school. 

The World Federation of the Deaf has established the following key points to ensure a deaf child’s human rights:

  • Like all children, deaf children must have access to equal and quality education. Deaf children are born with the same basic capacities for learning and language as all children; they can and should reach their full potential with quality educational programs.
  • Deaf children learn best in sign language. A bilingual approach is becoming more popular in many countries. It means teachers must be native or fluent signers in the sign language of the country. Sign language should be used to instruct all subjects for deaf children.
  • A strong emphasis on teaching reading and writing skills of the language used in the country or society. This approach has good results in learning, because it supports the natural learning and communication environment of a deaf child.



  • The current educational situation is extremely dismal for the approximately 38,400 deaf children between the ages of 0-18 years living in Tanzania.  Less than 1% of these children will attend primary school despite the government mandating free and compulsory primary education for all children, including those with disabilities.
  • The plight of deaf children in Tanzania is similar to most developing countries.  Approximately 80% of the world’s 70 million deaf people do not have any access to education.  Of those deaf children attending school, less than 1-2 % receives educational instruction in sign language rather than spoken language.
  • There are 16 special schools in Tanzania, and 159 special units integrated into regular schools for deaf, blind, and disabled students. Two percent of children with disabilities are said to attend these schools. Currently there are very few Special Teacher Training Colleges in Tanzania which train teachers for children with disabilities.
  • CHAVITA, the Association for the Deaf in Tanzania, has been actively lobbying the government to improve conditions for deaf people in Tanzania.
  • Although primary school is free and compulsory, parents are still required to pay for school supplies, uniforms, food, and often for teacher’s assistants in the Deaf units. Many families cannot afford the expenses involved. When parents must decide which of their children will not be able to attend school, it is often the deaf female child who remains home to help with household duties.