The Deaf Hears Chess in Zimbabwe

I carried out an interview with Tafadzwa Katiyo of Tosesonke, who is based in the United States of America, and has a partnership with the Zimbabwean Chess Foundation. She had sourced some chess sets as well as the chess clocks for the Foundation, an organization led by FA- Elect and Fide certified National Trainer, Chenjerai Madamombe.

I caught up with Tafadzwa who is based in England through a phone call. Below is an interview with Tafadzwa Katiyo, who for the purpose of the following interview will be T.K, while I will be V.C:

V.C: Great day ma’am, my name is Victor Chimbamu, and I need to know more about the programs you are rolling out with the Zimbabwe Chess Foundation.

T.K: How are you? Yes, I have worked with them to support chess in Zimbabwe.

V.C: I hear there is a program for the deaf which is currently running at the moment.

T.K: Yes, right now we rolled out chess lessons for the deaf and hope to replicate the program across the country. We are trying to use chess for inclusion and also to give a platform for those with hearing impaired disabilities. Most disabilities are just physical attributes and because chess is a game of the mind, I believe this will reduce stigma, but most importantly start a form of dialogue and interaction with our citizens who are hard of hearing and those with other disabilities, with the rest of the society, so that they have a voice too. When I heard that sometimes when the deaf get sick they are at a higher risk of misdiagnosis because there is no translator, it broke my heart because at some level there should be enough people engaged in the issue. As a country, we do not have a homogeneous sign language department, so as this program grows, our aim is:

  1. To spread love through chess (we absolutely love the game because it is a unifying and dignifying game for all the participants)
  2. To facilitate inclusion (the country’s next chess champion could be hard of hearing; imagine how awesome that will be for the deaf community).
  3. Most importantly push for homogeneous sign language and get more people engaged. I personally want to learn sign language and I believe there are plenty like me and imagine how that would enhance our society for communication purposes but also the way we treat each other and show up in meeting each other’s needs professionally and socially.

V.C: Any hope of running a chess tournament for the hearing impaired?

T.K: Yes definitely. As we gather more information and our Zimbabwe Chess Foundation Instructors gain more insight we would want to host a tournament.

V.C: When do you think you will be ready to send the trained players for a tournament?

T.K: My target is by the end of this year, to gather as much feedback through the deaf community, so that we can identify children and adults all over Zimbabwe that can take part in a tournament. When we first embarked on this project, I realized that there are other considerations I had to make, that I had not thought of, such as the adequate number of readily available translators. But with our new partnerships with the likes of Zimbabwe Deaf Trust, Mrs Sithole (Harare), Big Tree School and Nzeve (Mutare), we continue to get insights on how best to implement, and through the dialogue we will be able to have a sustainable structure for all.

When I initially started, I had so much energy and pretty much my ‘tithes’ and a couple of friends were all we had to help get a few boards, but the bulk has been personal funds. Zimbabwe Chess Foundation have been amazing and have been my rock in actually implementing and identifying key areas of support.

V.C: Are you also a chess player?

T.K: Yes, I started playing when I was 5 years old. My father taught me how to play. Afterwards, I started playing at school. I believe chess is a powerful game that brings the family closer, which is one of the many reasons I hold a special place for it in my heart, because it brings back fond memories. In the mid-90s I also played at the Harare Show Grounds Tournament, that is the Lonrho Zimbabwe Open. At the time there were very few girls taking part, but now I am very happy that more girls are now taking chess seriously.

V.C: Which schools did you attend?

T.K: Mostly schooled outside Zimbabwe, but for Grade 7, when I went to Admiral Tait and High School my form 1-6 was at Chaplin High school in Gweru.

V.C: What is your highest level of education?

T.K: I have a Bachelor in Finance and Banking degree from the University of South Alabama, America and a Masters in Finance at Mercer University.

The above conversation identifies that there is a lot of potential for chess development through the support of a former chess player, whose passion and drive shows the importance of chess to the growth of the less privileged from the grassroots level. This is the first time chess is being taken seriously, hence there is need to have an all-inclusive approach, which ensures that the game thrives at all levels.

This will also ensure that these special people are not left out, as we may also have some potential champions from this group of people and it will be a dream come true for the formerly marginalized group of people.

Let us all take a positive step in ensuring that the game is spread to all the nooks and crannies of Zimbabwe, our dear continent and the uttermost parts of the world.

Let us teach and relate with all the races without any form of discrimination because of a disability

Above all, a disability is not inability.

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