Friday, November 20, 2015

Deaf, Not Dumb

Here's a nice article from the Tanzania Daily News pertaining to expanding services for deaf students.  It's about a month old but since it's direct from Moshi, I thought it would still be relevant.  Especially given that 2015 was a year filled with earwax and other various ENT shida in Msaranga.  Take a look!


The sky is the limit for everyone, including the deaf, if only they could get essential support.  Kilimanjaro is one of regions with a number of deaf children, some of whom are yet to be identified, as some parents or guardians tend to keep them indoors.

While guardians are not happy to be associated with such children in public, others are not aware that they could do extremely well in studies and later get employment.  Deafness is a situation caused by many different events including injury, disease, and genetic defects.  One of causes of deafness is exposure to loud noises.  A deaf person may have mild to profound hearing loss.

Temporary deafness has many causes including wax in the ear, drugs, or an infection.  This year, International Week of the Deaf came up with a theme: 'With Sign Language Rights, Our Children Can!'  In Kilimanjaro, the week was coordinated by a local non-governmental organization - Childreach Tanzania, bringing together the deaf community and stakeholders.

Mr. Goodluck Chanyika is Childreach Program Officer for Deaf Education and Development Program (DEDP) that has targeted to reach about 400 deaf children and young people as well as about 200 parents and guardians in Moshi Rural District and Moshi Urban District.

It is geared towards breaking communication barriers through conducting sign language trainings to teachers, pupils, and parents.  He says the program covers the deaf aged between 7 and 25 years in primary and secondary schools and colleges as well as those in society at large.

Mr. Chanyika says it is pertinent that the deaf acquire Sign Language early in life, so that they can improve on it and use it in study from preschool to the highest possible level of education.

As a way to ensure that after their studies, the deaf students can be incorporated in the employment sector and work along with other people, Childreach has organized apprenticeship opportunities for 16 final graduates from Ghona Vocational Training Center for the Deaf.

Mr. Chanyika says the apprenticeships take place soon after negotiations and the sensitization workshop in the first and second year.  They are done with business people, after having established contacts with those who have accepted to support and offer internship placements for deaf youths.

He notes that the internship program is then conducted for 20 days, the main objective being to strengthen deaf graduates' practical skills in carpentry and tailoring.  This in turn strengthens their employability skills so that after graduation they can look for jobs in their communities.

The deaf will undoubtedly be happy afterwards as their entrepreneurial skills are strengthened so that they can start their own business.  The apprenticeship instills business skills after they stay in these business centers and gives them an opportunity to develop new skills, abilities, and confidence in their jobs if secured.

Mr. Sultan Meena is one of the deaf persons who volunteers as a sign language teacher.  He is happy with what Childreach does and wants other stakeholders to follow suit as the NGO alone cannot accomplish everything in every area.  Speaking on behalf of the deaf community, he encouraged more deaf persons to come out so that they advocate for their rights.

He asks the government in Kilimanjaro region to play its part in supporting the deaf so that they overcome hurdles in life by constructing special preschools and an extraordinary secondary school for them.

Mr. Meena says the situation is so bad at most schools that many deaf students drop out at Form II.  The issue is that Sign Language is taught at some primary schools - with limitations - while at secondary schools it is not taught at all.  This leads to the deaf students finding it difficult to grasp what is taught and come national examination, they fail and cannot join Form III.

He says the basic solution is to ensure Sign Language is introduced from a young age at the community level, at special preschools, primary and secondary schools, and higher learning institutions.  Mr. Meena, who teaches at Msandaka Primary School, says deaf children find it difficult to learn Sign Language and it is not widely used at the village level.  Plus, not every primary school offers the service.

"We plead for the Education Department in the Northern Zone, Kilimanjaro Region, and Moshi Municipality to construct preschools and at least one special secondary school for the deaf so as to help us fight ignorance."

"The deaf are facing so many challenges that they should not if everything is addressed properly by the authorities," says Mr. Meena.  He urges the government to train more teachers on Sign Language as the teachers present are not enough.  He also advised other officers at health facilities, police stations, courts of law, and district and regional offices to learn Sign Language so that they can serve well the deaf.

Mr. Meena says the deaf could do a lot in nation-building if they are empowered in education.  This should be done by first identifying the deaf children in society, knowing their ways of life, changing their challenges into opportunities, and ultimately helping them attain education at the highest levels possible.

Regional Chairman of the Tanzania Deaf Association, Rev. Enock Meas, says many deaf people are marginalized in society for failure to communicate properly and some end up in trouble while others are denied their rights simply because of the communication barrier.

Rev. Meas says efforts should be put up to ensure all deaf people get formal education, employment opportunities, and are in leadership positions as well because they are able to perform duties just like, or even better, than those without deafness.  He calls upon religious leaders to join hands with the government in the task.

Mr. Jesh Lupembe is a senior Moshi Municipal Council (MMC) education officer who says his office is aware of challenges faced by the deaf.  He says the municipal council has successfully persuaded some teachers to take up special courses in sign language at Patandi College in Arusha so as to make certain the deaf get quality education.  Mr. Lupembe says the government always issues financial assistance to the deaf students.

He challenges respective schools to prepare a write-up on how they could establish preschools for the deaf and his office will share the idea with other stakeholders towards its realization.

The officer says the plea to construct a special secondary school is a request for the municipal council, the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, and the Prime Minister's Office to see how to go about it.

He, however, finds merit in having such a school in Kilimanjaro.  With all stakeholders having one voice, it is possible that at last the deaf will get right treatment and support.  This would start with being taught sign language at a very early age in the communities, continuing through education institutions, all offering the same sign language training, and at last getting employed by merit.  In future, they may even forget about their disability.

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