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Problems of Lebanese Pupils

 

 
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Problems of Lebanese Pupils
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Joined: 09 Mar 2007
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Location: Jbeil Byblos

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When I was teaching English in a school, a man approached me with a look of deep worry on his face. His son was weak in English, as in all other subjects, so he asked me if I should give the boy private lessons. “Come back in a week’s time and I will tell you,” I answered. During the following week I noted how the boy peered at the blackboard and buried his nose in his book when reading.

His father returned. “He doesn’t need lessons,” I said, “he needs glasses. He is myopic, very short sighted.” The poor father, a simple government employee, had been pouring out money on private lessons and summer school for his sons quite uselessly.

The boy’s two younger brothers had been suffering from the same defect. They were able to catch up on their peers when provided with spectacles but for the eldest it was rather too late. The boys were in a very good school, but neither parents nor teachers had noted their trouble. A child will not say that he has difficulty seeing because he does not realize that he is any different to others. In a miserable state of mind he just accepts the accusations of stupidity and laziness. Worse, in Lebanon there are parents who refuse to get glasses for their child because they are humiliated by any sign of defect. Approaching the age of twenty, glasses may be replaced by contact lenses.
The main problem of the saintly English priest Father Roberts, twice decorated by Queen Elizabeth, was to reach out to parents of deaf-and-dumb children and to tell them of his Institute at Suheileh, Kesrouan, where their children could receive a practically normal education. At dances they could meet fellow sufferers of the opposite sex in order to make happy marriages. We heard of a case where a family kept a deaf mute girl imprisoned under their staircase so that others should not know they had such a child. Even in Scandinavia up to about 1970 boys might be sterilized for “eugenic” reasons when their teachers thought them mentally defective although often their only fault was deafness.

Another problem that passes unnoticed is dyslexia. This is a tendency to read in reverse. The number 12 is read as 21, for example, once again leading to accusations of stupidity directed at the harassed child. The cause remains mysterious but any major hospital in Lebanon will indicate a psychologist specialized in the treatment of dyslexia which is normally effective.

Many children have bad handwriting. They are given boring exercises of copperplate (useless for practical purposes); they stiffen with fatigue and the underlying fault remains uncorrected. By the repetition of bad writing their writing becomes even worse. What is the fault? I have seen boys with their whole shoulder and arm shaking as they write. One sees that they hold the pen stiffly as it lies flat between fingers squeezed into a triangle. But thumb and forefinger should form a circle with the pen vertical. In this way the fingers are supple, move freely and never tire. The rest of the hand does not move but rests on the table. The student can breathe and relax.
One more problem deserves mention, and that is stammering. Often the exasperated interlocutor shouts, “Spit it out, man!” Of course the poor fellow becomes completely tongue-tied. Stammering can be effectively cured by a speech therapist as those who saw the great film The King’s Speech will be aware (I personally remember hearing King George VI in 1939; it was painful!).

First of all the patient must control his breathing, using the yoga method. I had a pupil in English class who read tensely without any accent or intonation, a very important factor as the music of a language helps imprint the grammar and idiom. Lingua habita est, said the medieval schoolmen. I called the boy out and told him to take a deep breath. Like most people, he pulled in his stomach and expanded his chest. I punched him in the stomach and he deflated like a pricked balloon. No damage was done as he was also my pupil in judo and accustomed to rough and tumble. I then told him to breathe by relaxing and expanding his abdomen by the mere weight of his intestines and this time my punch had no effect whatsoever on his control.

Secondly, stammering is often accompanied by nervous twitches and postures. These become a cause, and need to be replaced by a steady confident stance.

Even children with Down’s syndrome (mongolism) should not be despaired of. A boy near Jounieh slouched leaning forward, and could barely form a simple sentence. He then followed karate classes with great patience, his chief problem being that he forgot the series of movements called kata if he did not practice them for a few weeks. His instructor and fellow pupils helped him with great kindness. Love is a great healer. The last time I saw him he was standing in front of the church with his happy parents, upright and conversing with those he met. The last I heard of him was that he had the brown belt ISKF. There are schools in Lebanon where children with Down’s syndrome can learn much and form regular habits.

W hope that in future there will be no more cases of Lebanese parents and teachers failing to understand the needs of certain unfortunate children and that there will be no more cases of fathers and mothers not taking advantage of the treatment and educational possibilities that are available.

Kenneth Mortimer
Mon Oct 31, 2016 5:43 pm View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
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