FROM A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
IXTY deaf-mute Arab children are now receiving their educations at Ephpheta, a completely new boarding school in the hills of Judea. Until it opened in September, no educational facility for deaf-mute children was available anywhere in this area.
The establishment of the Ephpheta Paul VI Institute for the Deaf-Mute was decided upon during the Pope's 1964 pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The institution is maintained by the School Sisters of St. Dorothy, an order already running several schools for the deaf-mute in Italy.
Some of the nuns have had special training for work with youngsters deprived of normal hearing and know how to use the most modern electronic equipment. During the first year, Ephpheta will accommodate 21 children about half of them aged three and four, the other half seven and eight.
In accordance with the Pontifical Mission's principle of "need, not creed," most of the students are Moslems. Only eight are Christians, the majority of them Greek Catholics. Once the children get a little older, religious instruction for non-Catholics will be provided within Ephpheta by teachers from the outside.
AMBITION The teaching programme provides for intensive work with all ages. Each child does about five hours of daily classroom work, in small groups of up to 10 children. In addition. half an hour of individual instruction is provided for every child once a day.
The teacher in charge of the individual lessons and exercises is a young woman from Bethlehem, who was sent to Italy by the Sisters and received her specialised training there from experts in the field.
Cut off from all cornmunication with their surroundings until they arrived at the school, the children display great interest and ambition in their studies. Instruction is exclusively in Arabic, and it combines lio reading, the identification of written symbols and actual pronunciation.
For children who possess some degree of residual hearing, highly sophisticated electronic equipment is used. Those completely deaf arc taught to "feel" the vibrations of sound.
The modern and attractive classrooms and residential quarters were designed by a Tel Aviv architect and built by a contractor from Nazareth. Until the school's own equipment arrived, initial applicant testing was carried out at Rel Hashomer Hospital near Tel Aviv.
The Sisters of St. Dorothy financed the initial investment in Ephpheta, with substantial assistance from the Vatican. Some of the building materials and all the electronic equipment — a control console for every teacher and earphones at every student's desk, as well as a fully equipped sound laboratory for the school's specialist physician — were imported from Italy.
Current operating costs, estimated at £6,250 a year with the present student 'body, will be covered by the Pontifical Mission, Pope Paul's relief agency in the Middle East.
In the United States, contributors may sponsor children at Ephpheta, at a cost of about £20 a child a month, through the Catholic Near East Welfare Association of Madison Avenue, New York City.