The Deaf Bulletin 2015 Issue 6
DEAF EDUCATION DIALOGUE.
Deaf Zimbabwe Trust hosted its second Deaf Education Dialogue on the 18th of June 2015. The event was aimed at interrogating whether Inclusive Education has worked for Deaf children in Zimbabwe. Various stakeholders were in attendance including representatives from the University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Open University, Deaf Women Included, and Deaf Media Trust, teachers of Deaf students and members of the Deaf community.
The guest speakers were Lincoln Hlatywayo who is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Disability Studies and Special Needs Education at Zimbabwe Open University and Frederick Mwale who is the Research Manager for Examinations and Special Needs Education in the Research and Evaluation Department Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC). Mr Hlatywayo’s presentation sought to interrogate whether inclusive education has worked for Deaf children in the Zimbabwean context while Mr Mwale gave a report on the 2013-2014 performance of candidates with Deafness at Grade 7 level.
Mr Hlatywayo noted that in the Zimbabwean context, there has been more of integration than inclusive education where Deaf students learn in Special classes. He highlighted that for inclusive education to work, Sign Language must be used as a language of instruction for Deaf learners. In his report, Mr Mwale indicated that the pass rate for hearing impaired learners in 2014 was 10.20%, a significant decline from 19.05 % in the previous year. He emphasised that the results were not an indication that Deaf students are failures but rather a reflection on the inadequacy of the system that is being used to educate them.
The sentiments shared by the participants indicated that Zimbabwe does not have a comprehensive inclusive education strategy from ECD to tertiary level. Conse-quently the system cannot be implemented in a manner that will yield tangible results for Deaf students.
The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education has an inclusive education strategy for tertiary institutions but it cannot be fully implemented because the students who should benefit from it have no foundation owing to the absence of a similar system in primary and secondary education.
Participants noted that the development of Sign Language as a medium of instruction for Deaf students is the key to ensuring the improvement of Deaf education in Zimbabwe. Many words do not have signs, particularly the technical terms used in different subjects. As a result teachers are not equipped with the right language to teach Deaf students.
Language development should thus be tackled at national level to allow uniformity in the signs used for the various technical terms. One participant highlighted that the Deaf students in Masvingo use Shona Sign Language so it becomes difficult to have a standard sign language upon which all Deaf students are measured. Hence a lot has to be done towards developing a national Sign Language that is taught in schools as an examinable subject.
The Zimbabwean constitution recognises Sign Language as one of the country’s eleven official languages. Chapter 1 section 6 of the constitution states that “the state and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must ensure that all officially recognised languages are treated equitably and take into account the language preferences of people affected by governmental measures or communications.”
The constitution specifically states that the state must promote and advance the use of all languages used in Zimbabwe including Sign Language and must create conditions for the development of all those languages. These constitutional provisions need to be implemented to allow Deaf people better access to information and better education.
Proficiency in Sign Language for both teachers and students will go a long way towards improving Deaf education outcomes for Deaf learners. There is need for a statutory instrument in the form of a Sign Language Bill to operationalize the constitutional provisions on Sign Language.
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