For the storybook I’m writing, I’ve begun doing some research on the nature in the Kingdom of Eswatini. Acacia Swazica, or the Swaziland thorn tree, and the Baobab tree are some well known indigenous trees. I’ve learned that some of the main major exports of this country are sugar, fuel, and cotton. Eswatini commonly has plains and mountains. They have a king who has twenty-seven children and fourteen wives. The country’s national mantra is: “We are a fortress. We are a mystery. We hide ourselves away.” There’s so much more I want to know! There are still so many things that I’m wondering about: like what are popular things to do in Eswatini, what are common foods? I want to learn more about the culture so that I can properly portray the characters in the storybook.
As I’ve been thinking about the story I want to write, and the parts of Eswatini I want to show it has struck me how different life must be for children in Eswatini compared to children in South America, or North America. I’ve been thinking especially about the different treatment of deaf citizens depending on the country they’re in.
People are often put into boxes. Lines are drawn. Categories are formed and everyone is left separated by labels that only serve to differentiate us from each other. What is the difference between deaf students in the United States and Eswatini? It’s purely geographical. And yet their worlds are night and day. What do I know about being a deaf student in Eswatini? What do I know about what it’s like to be deaf?
I found the Photovoice research method very intriguing. With this tool, stories are brought to the attention of policy makers, educators, and general populations the world over. Cameras are given to community members and they snap photos of things they find important, that they think everyone should be aware of; whether if it’s a culturally informative photo or photos meant to bring wrong things to right. Something like this gives everyone the opportunity to have a voice and the observers to have the opportunity to empathize and better understand the lives of others.
The term “critical consciousness” comes from the work of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. Freire’s use of the term refers to the process of those who are oppressed using critical thinking about their own situations. Analyzing the forces shaping their circumstances is a first step toward bringing about change. - Photovoice website
After reading the 2008 status report of the Kingdom of Eswatini’s education, it seems clear to me that most deaf students do not have the ideal resources that they need in order to fulfill their utmost potential. It is my belief that free education is a basic human right. Education is something that you can never have too much of, and no one can take from you. And yet historically the world over, powerful people are constantly imposing their will upon people in less advantaged positions in life. Those who have been underrepresented in the past are still struggling in the present. What I mean by that is if society does not demand that their needs be met there will never be any change. There are misconceptions everywhere in the world about what it means to be deaf. Really if you’re considered disabled in any way people anticipate less successes from you. They doubt your capability. Just the other day, I had a realization: don’t value yourself at the standards of others. If you measure your worth by what people think of you, you’ll spend all day counting and end up with nothing. At the end of the day, you’re the one who gets to decide the story of your life.