Life in Swaziland will never be the same for the deaf - now that the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) has embarked on a ground-breaking sign language project.
Run by the university's Languages Department, the three-year research programme will gather data on the various sign languages that are currently used in the country - data that will eventually be used to finalise a sign language curriculum and publish the first ever Swazi sign language dictionary.
"One is hoping that the sign language will eventually become the third language in the Kingdom of Swaziland," said UNISWA Vice Chancellor, Cisco Magagula.
Funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and involving the Swaziland National Association of the Deaf, the research project will begin immediately and will help to transform the lives of deaf people across the country - as well as the way people with disabilities in Swaziland are treated.
"The research, curriculum and sign language dictionary will make a huge difference to deaf people in Swaziland," said Professor Lazarus Miti, OSISA's Language Rights Fellow. "People with disabilities, including the deaf, are some of the most marginalised and socially excluded in the country and this can only help to ensure that they are heard and that their rights are respected."
The UNISWA Dean of Humanities, Professor Carolyn Harford, stressed how important the sign language dictionary would be - not only as the basis for a future university course on the language but also on a more practical day-to-day level.
"The dictionary will not only be of assistance to deaf people but also to the hearing community," said Professor Harford.
The dictionary will help to standardise sign language in the Swaziland and will be compiled with input and feedback from sign language communities across the country.
Work on a Swazi sign language dictionary follows the publication of a Zimbabwean sign language dictionary and extensive research on one in Lesotho - both of which were funded by OSISA. Bottom of Form
OSISA's strategy to promote sign language in southern Africa