Breaking the Digital Divide: Developing an ICT Curriculum for Russia’s Deaf Students

ORT's International Cooperation Department uses the charity's 130 years of experience in skills and vocational education to aid newly-emergent and developing nations. Through its IC work, ORT acts as an ambassador for the Jewish people in vulnerable communities across the world.

Under the Soviet regime in Russia, disabled students of every kind were removed from their parents and placed in state-run boarding schools, where they were taught vocational skills perceived as useful to the state. Russia’s deaf students were drafted into their country’s nuclear programme, where the government hoped to use their greater tactile sense, and to utilise their difficulties in communication to minimise the risk of spying.

With the fall of communism, investment in these vocational schools cease. They continued to teach the same out-of-date manual skills for which a market no longer existed. Typically, girls were taught dressmaking, and the boys metal working. In this way, generations of deaf students were condemned to a cycle of poverty and dependence, unable to earn sufficiently through their skills to maintain themselves and their families. Yet there is no reason why a deaf child cannot be taught marketable and desirable information technology skills which would allow them to get a job and earn a decent living.

Working with the Tula Vocational School and the Moscow School for the Deaf, ORT launched a programme to develop an ICT curriculum for deaf students in the countries of the Former Soviet Union.

Generously supported by the St James’s Place Foundation.

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Shana Tova.

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