by Keith Lake
Tshinyama Kalosa was born in Lubumbashi on 23 August 1955, the fifth in a family of eight children. He attended primary school at Mbandaka, in northern Congo (DRC), where his father was stationed as a captain in the army. In 1969 Tshinyama was introduced to Banza whose father was also a soldier. Despite being deaf, Banza completed four years of secondary education in practical agriculture. He wanted to study further but nowhere would take him. Banza’s older brother, who lived in Belgium, decided to look after him and so Tshinyama lost contact with Banza.
Tshinyama completed his secondary education and was then sent to Kinshasa. Meanwhile, in Belgium, Banza met Dr Foster at the Institut Royale for the deaf and blind. Dr Foster was the first black deaf person to graduate from an American university. He had a passion and vision to see deaf schools established all over Africa.1 Dr Foster sent Banza to Nigeria for training and then to Kinshasa to be the director of the first deaf school in the DRC. Tshinyama met Banza again and was so inspired by his friend that he went to the school every afternoon to learn sign language with him. A year later, Dr Foster sent Banza to Gabon to open another school for the deaf.
Due to the 80-day war, Tshinyama was sent to Sandoa. After secondary school he moved to Lubumbashi intending to study law but his results were not good enough to be eligible. He decided to teach for a year to support himself and then retake the exam. Tshinyama went to the Methodist education coordination office but not being familiar with the city he went to the wrong office and ended up in the Freres en Christ (FEC), Garenganze education coordination office. Although not where he expected to be, they were looking to engage teachers. Tshinyama proceeded to write a request for a job, addressing the letter to the Methodist bishop – not knowing that he was in a different office! To his surprise, he was successful and they told him to come back in two days’ time for a letter of introduction to Kamalondo Primary School. Still believing that he was to be engaged by the Methodist church school, he went straight there but was inevitably redirected to the FEC Garenganze school, where he started teaching.
At that time, Tshinyama was not a believer. After three weeks, the school director asked all the teachers to attend church to hear the gospel. Tshinyama had a great interest in joining a choir so in November 1981 he started singing in the church. When an elder asked him whether he was a Christian, he replied, ‘Yes, because I go to church.’ The elder enquired further, ‘You are singing but do you know who you are singing about?’ Tshinyama knew that God had done an amazing thing in his life and had also gifted him to sing in the choir, so his heart was ready to believe in Jesus. Following his conversion, he involved himself in the faith and baptism teaching and he was baptised on 1 January 1982.
At the end of his first academic year, Tshinyama was transferred to Katuba, a larger school in Lubumbashi. In November 1982 Dr Foster arrived in Lubumbashi to open a deaf school – at that time Kinshasa was the only one in DRC. The government gives nothing towards deaf schools as most officials don’t understand the special needs of deaf children. Dr Foster went to Katuba and called for a meeting with the legal representative and the executive committee. Tshinyama duly went along but was greeted with a frosty reception by the church leaders who told him that the meeting was by invitation only. However, Tshinyama had naturally greeted everyone in sign language, much to Dr Foster’s surprise! Clearly impressed, he asked Tshinyama whether he was a baptised Christian and in fellowship? He was able to reassure Dr Foster that he was.
In March 1983, unexpectedly, Tshinyama received a letter with a scholarship to go to Nigeria to study sign language for six months. That October he started a school for the deaf at Kamalondo with the vision to add another academic level each year. The school finished its first year with 11 students.
Tshinyama knew that God had done an amazing thing in his life
In 1984, Dr Foster sent Tshinyama to Likasi to train teachers for other schools. Two years later, Tshinyama was selected as Representant National des Ecoles de DRC (National Representative of DRC Schools). Another scholarship, this time from Cristoffel Blinden Mission, took him to Kinshasa to study Methodology of Lip Reading. In 1994 a further scholarship enabled him to go to Belgium to study Audiology but he ended up going to the UK for that course and to learn British sign language.
In the early days, the deaf school used the Kamalondo school buildings in the afternoons. With regular interruptions and no office space, Tshinyama wanted to establish a dedicated school property. Tshinyama tried to find a plot somewhere in Lubumbashi but there was nothing suitable. In 1991 Tshinyama asked if I could help to promote his efforts to develop the school and I approached World Vision. Their gift was more than enough to buy uniforms for the 69 students enrolled and so Tshinyama was able to purchase six plots of land at $130 each as well as the uniforms! In 1993, World Vision also provided for six classrooms to be built for the primary school and then another six for the secondary in 2000. With assistance from Rachel Newby, the first dormitory was built in 2009 and two more classrooms were added in 2014.
Assistance from various supporters enabled them to build the first carpentry workshop. A second dormitory was built, followed by two other workshops, the last one being dedicated for the graduates to undertake their own business utilising the available tools.
As the students were finding it difficult to integrate into the local church services, Tshinyama began a deaf church service within the school compound. As a result of this new church plant over 100 people now regularly worship there. They have appointed deacons and the teaching is given by capable members of the deaf community. The enthusiasm and joy of the people in this fellowship is an inspiration to any visitor.
The Next Generation
Tshinyama’s conviction is that he will never stop learning and his humility shines through. He is always ready to give the glory to God and to trust Him for every possible development of the school. ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you’ (Mt 6:33). This passion has resulted in a commendable work ethic among the staff and an inspiration to the students.
Tshinyama married Kapemba Gabeyah, they have six children of their own and have adopted two more, including a deaf boy whose parents left him at the school at the age of six. Kapemba is a teacher in the primary school along with their oldest daughter who was willing to take on the responsibility, even though she has a degree and could have another position at a much higher wage. They work together as a team, passing on the baton of discipleship and giving themselves to God first.
This year Tshinyama will be 68 years old, he has taken up the task given to him by the Lord and he has a desire to prepare for the next generation to follow. He is actively tackling the issue of succession, putting everything in place for the school to function well and continue. Tshinyama’s life has been marked by his desire to honour and serve God, endeavouring to give the underprivileged deaf community an awareness of God’s love for them and to open up possibilities for a fulfilling life.
- for Tshinyama and his family as they continue to serve the Lord
- for the deaf schools and ministry
- for the deaf students as they develop and find their purpose, and that they will come to know the Saviour.