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No child left behind

Amanda Bailey, 15, sat with her head in her hands staring at the 53 per cent mark on her tiny laptop screen.

The many certificates and medals that surrounded her desk indicated this mark was below her standard. But her mother did not admonish her for it. In fact, the only tap she received was a gentle one on her shoulder to tell her that lunch was ready – a touch that was needed to get her attention. A simple call from the kitchen wouldn’t do because Amanda is deaf, and one 53 per cent grade won’t undo the pride her parents have in her.

Like many, Amanda has had her trials with online learning. But it’s been a bit different for her.

“When she’s in school she has her own personal interpreter, who goes class to class with her for her subjects and if she has a free period, they would take her to a room with the other deaf children in the school and they would do extra studies and reinforce the work,” her mother, Sharon Alfonso told us in a study room she and her husband built for Amanda. She added that the Education Ministry hires the interpreter.

That option is no longer available at least during COVID-19-affected classes. But there’s still a system in place.

“Now she uses my phone to video call her interpreter, so, while her teacher is conducting classes via Zoom, the interpreter will be on the video call listening to the teacher and then relaying the message to Mandy and they’ll go back and forth like that.”

It sounds challenging, it looks cumbersome, but ‘Mandy’ has been flourishing.

“Zoom is better because guess what, you are just focusing on the interpreter. The event is all about the interpreter, what speech is said goes directly to the interpreter and directly to my computer. And the interpreter and my teacher are both there on my screen and I can understand really easily and get my work done,” Amanda said.

She wasn’t the only one happy for the live interpreter via video call. That made our interview easier.

Her mom said the only issue she has is the volume of work being assigned, something Guardian Media has been hearing a lot of during our ‘No Child Left Behind’ series.

“Mandy doesn’t know right now what it means to have a free weekend, but I’m seeing a big improvement in her work.”

But Mandy let us know her good grades didn’t come by chance.

“Yes, the workload is really incredible. That is true, I’m thinking back about the work I used to do with my teacher and I think that this is plenty more, it is a lot of responsibility but I am patient. And even though it is hard I don’t give up, I press on, I am responsible.”

She wants to be a teacher but also had sights on being a nurse. Her mother recounted times at her primary school where she would stay back to help other deaf and hard of hearing students.

And the aspiring teacher had a lesson for those who have a similar obstacle to overcome.

“I would like to tell them, you know that you are deaf, if you need an explanation, ask for it. Planning is very important; I know what it means to be responsible and I am obedient. I follow what I am told to do, that’s important. Secondly make sure things are clear, make sure you have lists and you have plans. I feel that I understand the experience and I really try to help other students. So just please try.”

Amanda’s need for two devices to continue to make this work. Right now, her laptop is barely getting the job done as it cannot install new applications. Her mom’s cellular phone is also worse for wear. Anyone willing to assist her can contact Sharon Alfonso at 463-0967.