Tanzania: 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 specialized tutors for the subjects.

Bukoba District Secretary for Tanzania Association for the Deaf (CHAVITA), Ms Judith Kashuliza, noted that during recent school examination results, pupils and students who are deaf did not perform well.

"It is time for specialized 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. Many such students and pupils are very bright, the only problem is miscommunication between them and their teachers in classrooms," she said.

She revealed that at the moment, teachers' colleges that are offering specialised training for tutors who handle pupils and students with impaired hearing and sight are Patandi Teachers College of Meru, in Arusha Region and Lushoto, in Tanga.

On September 28, 2019, the Institutions for Inclusive Development (I4ID), a development project co-funded by Irish Aid and DFID, joined other stakeholders across the country in marking the International Week of the Deaf.

A diverse group of actors converged in Iringa for a landmark celebration to reflect on the challenges that the deaf community face, and the progress that has been made to date.

Work that started over a year ago to harmonize, expand and modernize Tanzania's sign language, in response to calls for a proper bi-lingual learning environment from Tanzania's Association for the Deaf, CHAVITA, has borne notable fruits.

A team of researchers, under the leadership of the Tanzania Institute of Education, and with funding from I4ID, is traveling across Tanzania to compile a database of signs.

At present, there are more than nine different sign languages across Tanzania, a heavy burden for the deaf community, teachers and educational authorities.

For decades, sign language was stigmatized in Tanzania, but in 2014 it was officially accepted as the 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 Swahili and secondary level teaching in English.

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