His frequency on television screens during major public events including President Paul Biya’s address to the nation, vital government communications, and COVID-19 press conferences, etc. have raised questions on whether or not he is deaf and dumb. That’s because Simo Maurice’s voice has rarely been heard. Be rest assured, the 56-year-old sign language teacher has all his senses. He simply decided, out of passion, to be the voice of deaf and dumb for the past 27 years. And the native of Batié in the West Region is reaping the fruit of his service to mankind.
You may have seen Simo Maurice gesticulating on national television during major public events. When the Head of State, President Paul Biya addresses the Nation, during important government communications featuring the Prime Minister or other members of government, during the Major National Dialogue, and during press conferences on the devastating Coronavirus pandemic, the 1.75m tall gentleman is spotted relaying these messages to the deaf and dumb using sign language. He has, for the past 27 years, been doing this. Thus, some people have been wondering if Simo Maurice talks and hears. Yes, he does so very well! The native of Batié in the West Region has all his five senses. None of his children or close relative are deaf and dumb. Out of passion and compassion, he decided to serve as the voice of persons with special needs.
How did it happen?
Simo Maurice had loved to be policeman. He wrote, but failed the competitive exam into the corps. His father, a trader and polygamist with five wives, invested for him to be a Magistrate. As soon as he enrolled the then University of Yaounde, where he read Law, the varsity student felt his calling was elsewhere. During a tour of Yaounde, with classmates, in 1986, they visited the specialised school for the deaf and dumb. At the end of the guided tour, Simo Maurice was touched by the lives of vulnerable children he came in contact with. “When we returned to the University, I was physically present in lecture halls, but my spirit was in that deaf and dumb school. I told my friends I was abrogating my studies at the University to serve the speechless. Being a holder of a scholarship, they thought I was crazy… When I disclosed my decision to my parents, my father was disappointed, but my mother gave me her blessings. She said if that was God’s wish in my life, let it be so. In partnership with “La Fondation pour l’Education des Personnes Deficientes Auditives”, and “La Fédération Internationale des Sourds et Aveugles de France”, I graduated (vice major of my batch), after a three-year training, as a specialised instructor,” Simo Maurice, fifth of his mother’s eight offspring, narrated. In 1989, he was one of the pioneer sign language teachers in Cameroon. And for the past 27 years, he did not only teach the use of sign language, he equally lend his voice and ears to the needy. He kept them abreast with major national and international news development that impacted their lives directly or indirectly.
In his capacity as sign language teacher, he gave hope to hundreds of children hit by the handicap. He put smiles on the faces of their parents, who were stigmatized for giving birth to such kids considered “a curse”. Consequently, their first reaction was to hide them from the public. Many of his trainees have acquired formal education up to the tertiary level, with some securing white collar jobs. As the world commemorates the International Day of Deaf and Dumb on 27 September, his clarion call, to these category of persons, is to sit the recruitment test into the Cameroon Public Service in September 2020. Considered a reference in sign language, Simo Maurice, 56, is reaping the fruit of his labour. “I’m neither financially and materially rich as many would think. My wealth is the job satisfaction I derive. It’s also the encouragements, thanks, and blessings parents of handicap children shower on me every day. From all these, I can’t say I lack,” he said.
In 2013, he officially wedded Simo Lille Delaure, a Batoufan princess in the West Region. They are parents of six children, among them a medical doctor. None of his children are deficient in speech or hearing, but are versed with sign language. As a humanitarian, he adopted and groomed an orphan (dumb and deaf), who is today an expert in Information and Communication Technologists (ICTs). On the table, Simo Maurice (orphan of both parents) is not complicated. Rice, and mashed Irish potatoes with beans (a staple meal of the West Region), are his favourite food. For personal reasons, he shuns alcohol, preferring fruit juice and water. Sport is one of his hobbies. On Saturday and Sunday, he is present at the esplanade of the Yaounde Omnisport Stadium keeping fit, with music at the background. The man who weighs 72Kg is generous with smiles. He hardly finishes a phrase without smiling. If you want to test how emotional he is, accuse him unjustly. Don’t be surprised tears runs down his cheeks.