Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)



( E.SM.A)


Ecole des sourds-Muets d’Aru (ESMA) is a school for the deaf, a local Christian and Community –based organisation.

This school was created in August 2004, in the North-eastern corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, in Sub-District of Aru, in the  Ituri District. (see Fig 1)


2.      Background


Generally in Africa and particularly in Ituri District in the North-east of DRCongo, disabled men, women and children are the poorest in most of Congolese communities, because most of them are excluded from education, health and employment opportunities.

They are going through difficult conditions, affecting not only their life, but also their social development in the community where they are living, mainly rural.

Some of the difficulties they are facing are:

1. Both social and cultural barriers;

2. Social discrimination: due to the fact that they are disabled, they are considered as useless

3. They have become subject of exploitation and suffer different kinds of injustice

4. Many of them are poor or are from poor families. Those conditions expose them to sexual abuse and to HIV/AIDS.

5. Most of the Parents are local farmers with a monthly income less than USD$ 15. Many disabled from such families are often hidden away or are led to a life of begging on street.

Many families have dissociated themselves because of these burdens. Or the man divorces the woman or vice versa, and in some tribes, blind and deaf are considered as wizards and bringers of misfortune.

Called upon by this painful situation of the socially rejected persons living in despair, persons created by God, driven by values that arise from his own experience of poverty, Mr Ismael had a real passion to make a difference and was determined to apply his knowledge, skills and different contacts to make the project happen. Mr Ismael Byaruhanga  is a graduated from Panafrican Institute of Community Health College ( IPASC/Bunia /DRCongo), Departement of Community Based rehabilitation (CBR) together with his wife Mrs Beatrice Nobabo, all took the initiative of founding a school for the deaf since August 2004.

Actually, due to significant number of disabled people in the region, ESMA extended its activities in five other areas according to the need and the priorities of the population.

The major beneficiaries of the project are persons with disabilities (deaf, blind, physically disabled children) as a result of different burden in the community, their families, as well as their communities (churches, local organisations, health and rehabilitation professional and rehabilitation workers.


3.      The Mission of ESMA


-         To improve the opportunities and the lives of world’s poorest people,( deaf, blind and physically handicapped children),

-         Promote their equal right and opportunities  as full member of the society,

-         Social professional reinsertion in a permanent manner,

-         Teach the word of God and win lives for the Lord, because the deaf are found among the unreached group and they do not have opportunities to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.



4.      Strategy

Throughout  these programs, ESMA  works closely with families, communities, churches, schools and other local organisations, to dispel harmful misconceptions, to breakdown cultural barriers and create new frontiers of opportunity and involvement for those disabled people in different areas of their community lives, in order to facilitate social acceptance.


5.      Field of work


►Education of the deaf children and professional training,

►Prevention of deafness and hearing impairment;

►Prevention and rehabilitation of blind and visual impairment,

►Community based-rehabilitation of children with physical disabilities (CBR),

►HIV/AIDS awareness programme for the marginalized people,

►Evangelism especially for deaf people as unreached group and other marginalised.


5.1. Education of the deaf children and professional training,


Assigned objectives:

- To provide a basic primary education and professional training for deaf youth.

- To promote favourable environment for the deaf in order to develop a good physical, spiritual and intellectual ability toward the society.

- Sensitise their families as well as different communities (Church, local organisations, schools…) about deafness and the possibility of their total integration in the society

- To train the teaching personnel and parents on sign language to allow a good interaction amongst them and their good integration into various environment.

 5.2.   Operational Activities

 -         Teaching : Five classes have been opened,

-         Feeding : the children live in the boarding

-         Basic treatment : a small pharmacy has been organised to help the children in the boarding house in case of emergency),

-         School garden,

-         Sports : volleyball and Basket

-         Monthly parents’ meetings

-         Professional Training with deaf girls in the sewing, knitting and computer,


5.3 Accomplishments


-         65 deaf children live in the boarding and study normally,

-         Statistics :










40 (end June 2006)













-         Two blocs have been built (one bloc of 4 rooms: 3 classrooms and 1 office, the second bloc of 3 rooms : a dining hall and 2 dormitories) Thanks to the assistance of Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), through Oxfam-Québec Aru/DRC,

-         A small pharmacy has been organised to help the children in case of emergency treatment.


5.4. Constraining Factors (Needs)

-         Training of qualified teaching personnel,

-         Equipments for dormitory and dining hall (beds, mattress, blanket, chairs and table),

-         To connect the school with drinking water (water Tank), children drink water from the river ,

-         To improve children’s health and feeding for a better health,

-         Construction of 4 other classrooms, store for food and school material and toilettes,

-         Increase the number of sanitary installations for girls and boys separately,

-         Electric supply,

-         Equipment and materials for professional training (computers, sewing machines, knitting kit…),

-         Implement income generation activities to support food for children and teachers motivation.



6.      Prevention and rehabilitation of blind persons and visual impairment Programme


Certain eye problems such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, trachoma, glaucoma, xerophtalmia, onchocerchiasis, refractive errors, and other eye infections no treated for a long time, can affect one’s sight.

In these cases, the loss caused by one of these problems cannot be restored. Most of these burden are present in our area and cause serious problems of blindness especially cataract which is the major causes with about 50 to 60 % of the identified patients.


This awakening about prevention of blindness in the community and rehabilitation of blind and visual impairment persons is of great importance in this area of North eastern corner of DRCongo, for the promotion of eye health.


       6.1. Our goals

-         Help blind people and visual impairment fully participate in the economic, social and spiritual lives of their communities,

 6.2. Purpose

-         Early detection of persons with visual problems and refer to the Eye Centre for appropriate treatment,

-         Develop their life skills, their spiritual and intellectual ability and provide basic training in traditional weaving, pottery and Christian music that will make them productive and self- reliant and reduce dependency on their families,

-         To decrease the burden of avoidable blindness in community of Aru Territory and its surroundings,

-         To increase community capacity and awareness to control eye diseases,

-         Promote their equal right and opportunities in the society,

-         Networking with other national and international organisations acting in the related domain.


6.2. Activities

a)       For the blind and visual impairment

-         Moral psychological sustenance (counselling, Bible studies..),

-         Seminars and advices on their social right,

-         Orientation and accompaniment towards other specialized centres, (Eye Centre, Optic Centre..),

-         Day living skills to promote equal  participation in household duties such us cooking, washing and maintenance,

-         Seminars with families of blind and visual impairment : how to live with them and to help them,

-         Learning Braille signals

-         Practice of cane travel in order to instil and self –confidence,

b)      Manual activities

-         Training : in Pottery, weaving, music,

c)       Games and leisure activities

-         Different types of games (gymnastics, choir…)

d)      Activities in the communities

-         Eye screening and health education in different institutions such as schools, clubs, local organisations, churches…,

-         Radio programme for sensitisation ( community awareness  and health education),

-         Directing serious cases to specialised centres,

-         Creation of community links to fight against blindness,


6.3. Fulfilments

-         the report about the eye screening on 06th, 07th and 11th November 2006,











Refractives arrors










Corneal  sca





  Diabetic Retinopathy





Optic atrophy





 One eyed











By age



















































- Well networking with the Aru Eye Centre, the Eye technician mobilises himself to do mobile clinic with our CBR team.


6.4 Constraining Factors (Needs)

Lack of fund for supporting at least 50 % of the bill of the most marginalised persons suffering from avoidable blindness ( cataract), (fig 2)


-         Luck of equipment, furniture and appropriate materials for the training of blind

and visual impairment, Insufficiency of qualified personnel to satisfy adequatelly their needs in giving appropriate training (pottery, sewing, Braille..),more than 10 children, and the youth cannot continue their studies in normal schools they need support for special education and vocational training ( fig 3)


7.      Community – Based Rehabilitation Programme for children with physical disabilities (CBR)


Many physically handicapped persons in our communities: men, women and children, are always victims of marginalisation and are among the poorest.


The adults live on small activities that pay insignificant wages, around USD 0.5 $ per day, an amount which cannot feed a family in normal conditions.


Presently, the research of our CBR programme identified about 216 children from 0 to 12 years, each with different physical disabilities. Almost 75 % have no access to basic primary education and health care, simply because of certain cultural barriers and other misconceptions in their respective communities.


With the aim of improving the standard of this group in obtaining its own autonomy socially, professionally and economically for its own wellbeing, ESMA has come up with the following objectives:

-         Promote awareness among disabled, them selves, their families and their communities about right, the difficulties they are facing and about simple measures of self care and rehabilitation,

-         Sensitisation in primary schools, churches and local organisations in order to promote access of children with disabilities to existing formal education and informal education for adults,


-         Train CBR Workers within the territory

-         Promote professional training courses and management for young adult with disabilities, to assure their social integration in the active societies,

-         Networking with other local, national and international organisations acting in related field,

-         To establish the techniques of re-education so as to facilitate the children with physical disabilities, a minimum of independence and gain the use the lost function as well as his autonomy,


7. 1 Activities

-         Provide the parents with essential information about the possibility of an eventual appropriate re-education task,

-         Evaluation of the physical ability and plans for the treatment,

-         Early identification of children with physical problems,

-         Possible transfer to a medical centre in case an intervention by the Doctor or Orthopedic is needed,

-         Inform the community about the causes and the prevention of disabilities


7.2. Accomplishments


-         216 children have been identified ( recorded), and other are under rehabilitation process (fig 4)

-         More than 20 children have been referred to Arua general hospital in Uganda for orthopaedic treatment.


NB: Beside people with disabilities, the Project identified 512 persons suffering for Epilepsy and do not have efficiency care.

ESMA organised a CLUB of people with Epilepsy since November 2006.In that Club they are making monthly contribution that can help to seek for some medicines ( Phenobarbital) to reduce their burden.


7. 3 Problematic of people with epilepsy:


- Unfortunately, the contribution is not enough to cover their treatment. 20.000 tablets are needed per month. One box of 1000 tablets cost 29$ x 20 = 580 $ per month.

- Most of them have difficulty to complete their dose, their burden increase and they are at high risk of developing mental disability or getting accident that can cause physical disability,

Many people with epilepsy face serious cultural and misconceptions barriers, they are hidden and kept in houses when a visitor comes. Epilepsy is considered as a shameless disease brought by bad or Devil spirit,


7.4. Constraining Factors (Needs


-         Lack of material and financial support to train more CBR Workers and lay down the activities for the whole Territory,

-         Lack of full time Kinesitherapist in the area to help the CBR team Programme,


8.      Prevention of deafness and hearing impairment Programme


As a result of direct unhealthy environment conditions in which Africans are living in general and in the North –Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in particular, hundreds of lives get lost every day due to current and communicable diseases, unsafe child and mother health, sexual transmitted infections and malnutrition… in other word, all these are preventable health problems.


However, the acquisition of sufficient knowledge of these health issues preventive measures, through an intensified share of experiences and sensitisation using different communication approaches would help reduce the burden of these public health problems in our rural communities.


The fact that about hundreds of deaf children aged from 4 to13 years old applied for the training in ESMA motivated us to explore challenges of hearing problems in our community. So, we collected necessary information from Aru Health District in order to have some prevalence and the causes of deafness.


That is the reason why, the prevention programme is set up and is of great importance to fight hearing problems.


8.1. Estimated causes of Deafness in North-Eastern DRCongo


In general, around 50 % of the causes of deafness is due to the effects of meningitis and other childhood diseases; about 35-40 % to chronic otitis left untreated for many years simply because of negligence and ignorance of the population and also because of lack of specialised centres as well as the information on the prevention. (fig 5),



8.2 Our Focus

-         Reducing childhood deafness due to chronic otitis media,

-         Early identification of hearing impairment in remotes areas,

-         Training program for CBR Workers


8.3. Objectives


-         Combat preventable hearing impairment by raising awareness as well as providing education and information,

-   Carry out extensive rehabilitation measures at an early stage for early detection,

-         Through the nurses, create community links for sensitising the most marginalized and

most touched communities on the preventive measures of ear diseases and their impacts,

-         Educate the population about the necessary preventive measures aiming at improving the environment hygienic conditions.


8.4 Activities

-         Ear screening and helth education in different areas: primary schools, local organisations, clubs…,and refer to Aru General Hospital for early treatment if infections are discovered,

-         Ear health education through Radio program 


8.5. Constraining Factors (Needs

-         Lack of means for transportation to reach the remotes areas and for large public awareness raising campaign through local radios,

-         Lack of an Audiologist Technician  in the group, to assist CBR Workers,



9. Evangelical Ministry for the Deaf and other marginalised group,


How to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Deaf people?


The spoken language is like an empty shell of no meaning. In addition, the deaf have never had any chance of learning grammar, i.e. to understand how the words are arranged to give a meaning ( cfr Bible Alliance ),

Briefly, everything remains in the world of absolute silence. That is why the deaf have ever been excluded in the social life and are considered as useless, and not intelligent.


Today, the sign language is improving; it has become a full language on its own, and enriches itself regularly like other oral languages. The deaf who knows the signs and practices them recovers complete cultural, social and spiritual freedom.


9.1. Objectives


-         Make the deaf improve their spiritual life through the different religious activities organised in ESMA (chaplainship, choir, Bible studies, Religious educations, spiritual retreats..)

9.2 Activities:

-         Sunday worship service ( deaf and hearing) about 80 people attend each week,

-         Prayer meetings,

-         Choir group in sign language,

-         Sunday school for deaf children under 8 years old,

-         Bible studies,

-         Retreats,

-         Christian seminars,

-         Interpreting service,


9.2 Needs

-         Bibles for the deaf and all useful religious literature,

-         Songs, videos on signs

-         Train 2 deaf in Christian leadership,

-         Train 2 hearing  interpreters,

-         Implement church for the deaf and its equipment,

-         Networking with National and International Deaf Ministries around the world,



10. National and International collaboration for year 2006.


The ESMA collaborates with the following Institutions:


1.       Panafrican Institute of Community Health  ( IPASC/Bunia/DRCongo)

-         Carryout  joint promotional programs for prevention of deafness,

-         Sexual violence program for the vulnerable group at high risk ( deaf, blind and physical handicapped),

2.       Aru Eye Project

-         Screening program for blind patients,

3.       World Health Organisation ( WHO),

-         Contribute by giving some books to ESMA for the prevention field and also for CBR Program,

4.       Oxfam_Québec,

-         Contributed to the promotion of deaf education by building 3 classrooms and 2 dormitories, and giving minimum education materials for the year 2005-2006.

5.       Strategies for Hope (UK),

-         Gives some books and audio-visual materials about sensitisation on HIV/AIDS to the deaf and other marginalized group through churches,

 6.       World Food Program ( WFP),

-         In its Program << Assistance to the vulnerable>>, they gave  food for some months to assist the deaf children in the boarding ( maize flour and beans ),

7.       Religious Confessions ( Churches),

-         20th  Evangelical Community In Central Africa ( C.E.C.A -20), ( Aru church),

-         11th Anglican Community in Congo ( CAC ), ( Aru church),

-         Assemblies of God ( Aru church),

-         8th Pentecost’s Evangelical Community in Central Africa ( CEPAC), ( Aru church),

Pastors and Evangelist from these Churches helped especially deaf people and other marginalized group (blind and physical handicapped) in preaching them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Teachers are trained locally in sign language.


12. Target for the year 2007


1.       In the year 2007, 80 deaf children will receive a basic primary education and the fifth level of primary will de opened,

2.       Promote 20 deaf aged from 15 to 25  in  vocation skills : sewing, knitting and computer that will make them productive and self reliant,

3.       30 Blind people will receive rehabilitation in day living skills,

4.       100 to 150 blind from cataract will be referred to Aru Eye Project for surgery so that they can recover their sight,

5.       Establish rehabilitation process for 200 children with physical disabilities who will be followed by CBR Workers,

6.       To train Five CBR Workers able to cover the whole territory,

7.       At list40 to 50 % of the population of Aru will be aware  of preventable measures of different disabilities,

8.       Assist 20 children with wheel Chairs who have working impairment to attend the nearest school,

9.       Implement special education for blind children and youth and for children with learning disabilities,

10.   Build church for the deaf

11.   Reinforce network with other National and international organisations in all domains



Dear All

Greetings from Aru school for the deaf ( ESMA)

Last week I went to my village 80 km from Aru center, for two days, I visited a family where I was surprised to get 7 children of the same family who are deaf. The youngest is a 21 year old girl and the last one is a girl of 4 year old.


We hope to integrate all of them in school from next August so that they will not a burden to their family.

The first and the second children will be trained at the vocational center and others will continue the basic regular education as usually.

Parents are only local farmers and are unable to help these children in difficult situation of communication and they don’t know how to educate them.

So, pray for the Father and the mother of these children. It is hard to have the whole children deaf in a family. And pray for ESMA, so that we may get support to help the forgotten people.

We are still searching for additional information on the main cause of this burden.






 News--September, 2007

We started the new school year from 3 rd September. ESMA as we mentioned is a residential and  its taking care from this September of  80 deaf people aged from 5 to 25 years old and 12 blind children for the first class.

We offer:
-          Preparatory school as nursery,
-          Primary school ( 6 years),
-          Vocational school in sewing and computer,
-            Religious activities:
Throughout this our objective is to help the deaf improve their spiritual life through the different religious activities organised in ESMA (chaplain ship, choir, Bible studies, Religious educations, spiritual retreats...)
-         Sunday worship service (both for those who are deaf and those who are not). About 100 people attend each week,
-         Prayer meetings,
-         Choir group in sign language,
-         Sunday school for deaf children under 8 years old,
-         Bible studies,
-         Retreats,
-         Christian seminars,
-         Interpreting service,
About the training of the staff.
Each year ESMA seek for trainer from BUNIA Mr WILLIAM DHEMBU who has been trained in NIGERIA by ANDREW FOSTER in 1982 and actually he is working with the < Comunauté Emmanuel> as a school coordinator.
The training runs only for two weeks each year to allow selected teachers to have a good basic in sign language. At ESMA we are using American Sign Language (ASL) from an old book broth by the trainer. (See fg).
So, we are expressing the need of appropriate Manuel in sign language and didactic material to help deaf people to gain a solid education.
 Needs for Christian ministry
-         Bibles for the deaf and useful religious literature,
-         Songs, videos on signs
-         Train 2 deaf in Christian leadership,
-         Train 2 hearing  interpreters,
-         Implement church for the deaf and its equipment,
-         Networking with National and International Deaf Ministries around the world,
Need for Books in sign language (ASL).
1.      ABC , A Basic Course in manual communication,
2.      Basic Pre-school Signed-English Dictionary,
3.      A Dictionary  of American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles,
4.      An Introduction to American Sign Language- Teacher’s Guide.
5.      Expressing and  Receptive Finger spelling for  hearing Adults,
6.      Lesson outlines for Teaching and the Study of Dactylology,
7.      Basic Signs,
8.      The Joy of signing,
9.      Videos on sign (songs, Gospel, conversation…).


For more information, please contact us:


Aru School for the Deaf


North-eastern corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC),

C/o : P.O.Box 1364, Arua/Uganda