Connecting Hearing-Impaired Students to Peers, Jobs, Hope

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

Hands-On Approach Is Ideal for Students

Hearing-impaired students in Kazakhstan recently transitioned from learning in boarding schools with sign language interpreters to studying with their peers in public schools. To ease this integration, the government began offering grants to educational establishments that propose innovative training programs for people with disabilities.

Miras Economic and Technological College is one such forward-thinking institution. In 2010, Miras received a grant to pilot a program for hearing-impaired students in technology-oriented majors. 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.

According to Dr. Gajane Valchevskaja, the Cisco area academy manager for the Commonwealth of Independent States, 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 the emphasis on hands-on simulation is ideal for students who rely on their sight and sense of touch.

Networking Experience Fosters Personal and Professional Growth

In Kazakhstan, many families in small cities and rural areas live on less than US$1000 per month. Home computers are expensive, and Internet connectivity is limited. As a result, hearing-impaired students are often unable to participate in the global online community. However, Networking Academy and the Kazakhstan government are changing that.

In addition to being able to communicate with new friends in social networks, Networking Academy students graduate from Miras with a degree and technology skills that make them competitive in the global labor market. Miras works with organizations throughout the state to expand job opportunities for hearing-impaired students with Cisco Networking Academy training.

"The students enrolled in Networking Academy become more confident, and they are gaining the skills and knowledge that will enable them to find a job," says Valchevskaja. One student has already found work as a computer administrator at a public school in Chimkent, Kazakhstan. Another student is a computer administrator in Miras College's Department of Distance Learning.

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