Connecting Hearing-Impaired Students to Peers, Jobs, Hope

Miras Economic and Technological College in Kazakhstan uses government grant and partnership with Cisco Networking Academy to help hearing-impaired students develop valuable technology skills and personal connections

Networking Academy’s Hands-On Approach is Ideal for Students

Hearing-impaired students in Kazakhstan used to learn in boarding schools with sign language interpreters. But in 2010, these students began studying with their peers in public schools. To ease this integration, the government began offering grants to educational establishments that proposed innovative training programs for people with disabilities.

Miras Economical and Technological College is one such forward-thinking institution. In 2010, Miras received a grant to pilot a program for technology-oriented majors – in this case, specifically for hearing-impaired students. Since then, the grant has helped Miras offer the Cisco Networking Academy curriculum to 64 hearing-impaired students, exposing many of them to computer technology for the first time in their lives.

Dr. Gajane Valchevskaja, area academy manager for the Commonwealth of Independent States, says hearing-impaired students need more in-person teaching, versus self-study, so the IT Essentials course was expanded from one year to two. The material is presented in an interactive format when possible, and Networking Academy’s emphasis on hands-on simulation is ideal for students who rely on their sight and sense of touch.

Networking Experience Fosters Personal, Professional Growth

In Kazakhstan, many families in small cities and rural areas live on less than $1,000 per month. Home computers are expensive, and Internet connectivity in schools is limited. As a result, hearing-impaired students are often isolated and can’t interact with peers or participate in the global online community. However, Networking Academy and the Kazakhstan government have changed that.

Now, not only can Networking Academy participants communicate via computer with new friends in social networks, but they have the potential to find work in a prestigious field. Networking Academy participants graduate from Miras with a state-recognized degree and technology skills that make them competitive in the global labor market. Miras negotiates with local companies and state organizations to hire hearing-impaired students with Cisco Networking Academy training.

Some are already working. One student, disabled since childhood, is a computer administrator at a public school in Chimkent, South Kazakhstan. Another student with cerebral palsy is a computer administrator in Miras College’s Department of Distance Learning.

“The students enrolled in Networking Academy become more confident, and they are learning an advanced subject and getting the skills and knowledge that will enable them to find a job,” Valchevskaja says.