By JACQUILINE EMODEK
Judging by his gestures on first sight, you will be forgiven to think he is deaf.
He is not deaf, but a master of sign language, having spent almost his entire teaching career with deaf students.
He is jolly and uniquely intelligent. He says his mission in life is to educate the deaf.
Peter Khauka is a teacher at the School for the Deaf, Ntinda, a Kampala suburb.
Born in December 1963 in Mbale town to Silvester Woniaye and Adisadi Kwaga, Khauka has devoted his life to educating the deaf.
He comes from a humble background and says this explains his soft heart for those that might be neglected by others in the community.
His past is wrapped in real life struggles to survive.
He had to burn charcoal to raise school fees; on top of several other odd jobs.
At one time, when he had just started teaching, he would walk for almost 10 miles to school.
“It is because of this tough background, that I am committed to my work with excessive resolute,” he says.
Khauka went to Dubirabi and North Road Primary schools in Mbale before joining Masaba Senior Secondary School for O’ level. He later went to Kabwangasi Teachers Training College in Budaka district.
He began as a trainee teacher and then went to Nairobi to pursue a diploma in special needs.
Khauka was later offered a scholarship by the World of churches in Geneva, Switzerland to learn sign language, psychology of the deaf, theories and methods of teaching the deaf, audiology (science of hearing) anatomy and pathology of the ear.
Khauka’s inspiration to teach
His story of starting to teach the blind is quite shocking. While Khauka was travelling by bus in the 1970s, a deaf man attempted to wave down a bus, warning the driver of a big ditch in the middle of a highway. Since the driver was absent-minded, he took long to see the deaf man.
By the time the driver noticed him, he had already closed in and he hooted so that the man could give way. Since the man could not hear, he was run over by the bus and died on spot.
It was relatives and villagers who explained to travellers that the man was deaf.
Khauka felt touched and the tragic experience stuck in his mind.
“From then on, when an opportunity arose and I got a scholarship, I decided to study something which would help such people,” he explains.
Khauka wakes up every morning morning to go and teach because his daily activities and interactions with deaf children motivate him.
“These children are unique. They have a special talent and are respectful,” he says.
Khauka says it is sad that some parents still neglect children with disabilities.
“Such children deserve good education like their colleagues,” he says.
Khauka adds that there is shortage of scholastic materials, yet children with hearing impairments use the same materials as normal children.
“People are reluctant to donate scholastic materials because they assume that these children use sophisticated materials,” he explains.
Khauka, however, points out that, there are some communities that lend a hand, but more assistance is needed. When asked about the parents of the deaf children, Khauka is full of praises, but recognises the mothers more.
At the school for the deaf, these children; much as they have hearing impairment, are no different from other children when it comes to co-curricular activities.
“Hearing impairment is not inability; deaf children can take part in football, basketball and athletics,” Khauka explains.
He sometimes plays the guitar and the children gather around to listen and dance to the soothing tunes. One would wonder how the deaf can enjoy music.
“Some of the children are not completely deaf and others just enjoy the company,” he says.
Khauka says those who are completely deaf feel the music in their hearts.