Deaf toddler’s big ‘switch-on day’ snatched

East London audiologist Catherine Richter with little Inothando Qalinto, 2, who could not have his cochlear implant connected yesterday and hear sound for the first time because thieves stole programming cables and computers necessary for the procedure. The items will be useless to the thieves as they are designed for a cochlear implant
East London audiologist Catherine Richter with little Inothando Qalinto, 2, who could not have his cochlear implant connected yesterday and hear sound for the first time because thieves stole programming cables and computers necessary for the procedure. The items will be useless to the thieves as they are designed for a cochlear implant
Image: Malibongwe Dayimani

A deaf toddler who was supposed to have received the gift of hearing for the first time yesterday could not have his cochlear implant switched on because thieves broke into his school and stole programming cables and computers containing the software for the procedure.

The break-in, which has delayed little Inothando Qalinto’s dream, took place at the Carel du Toit centre for deaf children where equipment worth R20000 was stolen over the weekend.

Inothando, 2, underwent successful surgery on May 12 preparing for what was supposed to be his big switch-on day yesterday. But that was not to be.

His distraught mother Noxolo Qalinto, 25, said they had waited a long time for the day.

“I had taken special leave from work to be here. I am very disappointed,” she said.

Cape Town audiologist Jenny Perold had flown to East London to connect and switch on the implant.

“Today was the big day for him to be connected and start to hear and learn speech and that process has been interrupted because some horrible people came in and stole all the equipment,” she said.

Perold said the school would have to borrow a computer and improvise the procedure today.

Carel du Toit school principal Paula Kumm said Saturday’s break-in was the second incident in two weeks.

“The main thing they stole in the latest one is programming cables and these are the cables we use for our children with cochlear implants.

“The technology is very advanced so we need to work with an audiologist and Jenny Perold has come from Cape Town this week to work with the children and now this has happened.”

Kumm said the cables were useless to thieves because they were specifically designed for a cochlear implant.

“I came on Monday [last week] and our roof tiles were taken off and they took the lead flashing [waterproofing] and the copper pipes to sell to scrap dealership. That cost us R7000,” she added.

Kumm said parents at the school had only just raised money to replace the material stolen in the first incident. “We are an NGO with no money.

“They are stealing from poor people. We will struggle to replace the equipment.”

National South African Society for Mental Health and Deafness chairman Tim Stones said: “As the society, we are distressed that deaf children could not get the gift of sound due to criminal activity.

“Hearing loss is disabling. It casts you off from opportunities and full access to life, and when one cannot have a cochlear implant switched on after waiting patiently for several weeks to have it done ... we can only appreciate the trauma and the pain that this child and his mother will be feeling today.”

East London police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Hazel Mqala said a burglary docket had been opened. No arrests have been made as yet. —

malibongwed@dispatch.co.za

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