Achieving the impossible: Malika Khuchaeva ensures all children’s voices are heard
Malika Khuchaeva lives and works in Grozny, the capital of the republic of Chechnya. After graduating from university, she started teaching literature. Yet, Malika was not destined to stay as a regular school teacher, her story is one that would touch the lives of so many in Chechnya.
“I am proud that my children can talk”, Malika says. She has been through many hardships in her life, having lost loved ones, relatives and friends during the two devastating wars in Chechnya. Despite this heartbreak, she explains that this was nothing compared to the news she received at the doctors about her daughters’ future.
“Your girls are deaf, and I cannot help you. There is no magic pill to cure them,” Malika recalls this as the saddest moment of her life. She felt helpless, as the news hit her to her very core. She blamed herself, believing she may have deserved this somehow. “This was the worst feeling”, Malika says, “knowing that your child is sick and not being able to fix it.”
She would not accept that her children were unable to communicate with her. Everyone around her; friends, relatives doctors, told her she needed to learn sign language and accept things the way they were. But she did not give up. She searched every corner of the Chechen Republic and Russia for specialists who might be able to offer an alternative solution. Eventually, in Moscow, she found experts who were trained in teaching hearing impaired children to talk. Finally, she had found hope, and she was inspired to act. For her baby girls to talk, she would need to find a speech-therapy specialist and a pre-school in Chechnya, as she could not afford to move to Moscow. This seemed impossible to access in a post-war republic. Not for Malika though.
She enrolled on a course to become a speech therapist, and soon got her diploma. She lobbied for the local government to open a pre-school for children with hearing impairments, as there was no such institution in Chechnya. In 2011, a mixed-abilities kindergarten was launched for children with and without special educational needs. Malika started working there as a speech therapist and helped hundreds of children with hearing impairments. She is now one of the most qualified, well-known and respected speech therapists in Chechnya. Both of her daughters are now able to talk and attend mainstream school with their friends. Taking inspiration from their mother, they have both expressed that they want to become teachers when they are older.
Malika is a great example of how perseverance and unwillingness to ‘just accept things the way that they are’ can transform into a great power to challenge the old ways of thinking and build a better future.
Malika aspires to open a specialised early years rehabilitation centre for young children with hearing impairments. “For them to talk, they need to start early, before they go to boarding school. We do not have such facilities in the republic currently,” she explains. Malika is advocating for these services to be free of charge and is working closely with other specialists in the republic to make this dream a reality.