13 March 2018

Gambia: 'Deaf' Students Say They've Been 'Neglected' By Government

Students of St' John's School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, have claimed that the new Government has neglected them just like the previous administration.

The students were expressing their dissatisfactions on March 10th during a one-day symposium organized by 'I Am Able Africa' (IAAA), a disable advocacy group. The symposium was held at the School grounds in Kanifing.

Joanna Sukai Gomez, Vice President of IAAA said International Law empowers the disable; that they should not be neglected by the state and society because they have equal rights as any other person. She lamented that the structure of the University of The Gambia is not helpful to the disable students.

"Looking at the buildings, you need to walk through stairs to get to some classes," she said.

She complained that the GRTS has also failed to provide programmes for the disabled and the hard of hearing saying, they have equal rights like others and need to have airtime as well.

Alagie Ceesay, a student at the ST. John's School for the Hard of Hearing, said they have been advocating for several years to have a sign language for GRTS' programmes, but that Government never acted upon them.

"Now that we have a new government, they have never considered us as well and we have not been invited to public symposia. The Government is not fair to us," he said.

Biran Camara said Government has made a lot of promises to them which has never been fulfilled; that both the previous and current Government have failed and neglected the disable people in terms of providing for their needs. Ebrima Camara, another student said, they have interest in watching television but could not because there is no interpreter to communicate the spoken words to them. "We are not learning or knowing anything about our own country," he said.

Presenting on the theme 'Disability Does Not Mean Inability,' Binta Baldeh, a member of IAAA, said disability is just a perception. "We do not need to be pitied nor do we need to be reminded that we are vulnerable. We must be treated equally, not that we have to be! Persons with disability are also part of society. We are neither especially blessed nor cursed. We need job opportunities, societal acceptance and equal treatment and not pity or to be put under custody," she said. Ms. Baldeh added that disability is felt in the mind and soul and not the physical body.

Charles Gomez, the president of the IAAA, said the disable should not allow to be called or labelled as disables because every being is disable in a different way. He urged that the disable should not be defined like this, because there is something they can do, that able bodied persons cannot do.

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