State urged to invest in sign language schools

PEOPLE with hearing impairment have appealed for government intervention to invest in schools that cater for only hearing impaired pupils or students which will have  specialised tutors for the subjects.

Bukoba District Secretary for the Tanzania  Association for the Deaf (CHAVITA), Ms  Judith Kashuliza told the ‘Daily News’ in an interview  that during recent school examination results,  pupils and students who are deaf   did not perform well.

“It is high time for specialised schools for the hearing impaired children, where the teachers will specifically be trained to handle them instead of relying on the current system of just having special departments  in mainstream educational institutions.

While education is key to passing knowledge on to children, skills values and attitudes are needed for them to be responsible citizens, while negative attitudes towards deaf children affect them psychologically, adding….these children, who are too often neglected, surprisingly have extraordinary talents  that need to be developed,” she said.

Elaborating, she said that for decades, sign language was stigmatised in Tanzania, but in 2014  it was  officially accepted as a language of  instruction for deaf children. “However, very few teachers are fluent in sign language, a situation that  isolates deaf children  in the classroom.

Further barriers are the patchwork of different signing systems and Tanzania’s  three-tier linguistic system: ethnic languages  spoken at home, primary school teaching in Kiswahili and secondary teaching in English,” she remarked.

Ms Kashuliza explained that most deaf students do not move forward in school due to a shortage of specialist secondary school and teachers. We need more schools  and teachers who understand sign language.

“My appeal to government is to invest in specialised education for the deaf to reduce illiteracy among students with special needs. Although children in Tanzania are entitled to better education, deaf children face  multiple barriers to attaining basic literacy and numeracy skills due to poor learning environment that affect their academic performance,” she remarked.

Statistics indicate that there were 91,000 deaf students in Tanzania in 2009, but only seven schools were fully equipped to provide specialised education at the time. Among deaf children, many attend only  primary schools but then drop out due to lack of sign language interpreters.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), hearing loss in children affects  not just academic outcomes, but communication, cognition behavior and emotional behavior.

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