Namibia Saddled With Poor Interpreters

Prime Minister Hage Geingob and four cabinet ministers yesterday listened to a slew of complaints from Namibians with hearing impairments – including allegations that the country lacks properly trained interpreters.

As such, says the Namibian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD), sign language teachers at public schools sometimes end up being taught by hearing-impaired learners instead of the other way round.

Yesterday a delegation from NNAD visited Geingob, who was joined in the meeting by four cabinet ministers – inance’s Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, her health counterpart Dr Richard Kamwi, education minister Dr David Namwandi and Joeumll Kaapanda, the information and communication minister.

The hearing-impaired said they feel segregated from the rest of their compatriots.

They called on government to devise measures to ensure that the hearing-impaired receive their fair share of service delivery at public institutions – particularly in the health and education sectors. Geingob said government was working towards ensuring that the deaf felt part of the country.

NNAD’s executive chairperson, Linekela Nanyeni said: “There is a need for interpreters at public institutions such as schools, government offices and hospitals because deaf people do not receive the service they deserve in the absence of interpreters. “During national events deaf people are forced to lip-read.”

He also called on government to recognise the Namibian sign language as well as implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Namibia ratified.

“We call upon cabinet to recognise sign language as one of the indigenous languages and develop material for it,” he said.

Jobs for sign language interpreters are also hard to find in the country, Nanyeni said. “There are well trained interpreters in Namibia, but there are no job opportunities,” he said.

But with over 27 000 deaf people in the country, Nanyeni says his association is not involved in the decision-making processes concerning the welfare of the deaf community. His claims were however denied by education minister Namwandi, who said his ministry constantly involved the association in its activities.

Nanyeni also called upon the finance ministry to consider funding the association because it is financially strained.

The association currently relies on foreign donors to fund its activities.

“We also want to go out to the regions to visit deaf people and assess how they are living, but due to a lack of funds this is not possible,” he said.

NNAD coordinator Beata Armas called on the Ministry of Health and Social Services to consider providing sign language training to nurses to ensure privacy between health workers and hearing-impaired patients.

“Sometimes you go to hospital and you have something you want to say to the nurse in confidence, but this is not possible because you have to speak through an interpreter,” she said.

But the NNAD youth chairperson, Peter Uushona, lauded the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology for ensuring the news bulletin on the national broadcaster, NBC, has a sign language interpreter and called on the information minister Kaapanda to replicate the move in parliament.

“We also want to know what parliamentarians are debating. Who knows maybe I also have dreams to be the country’s prime minister one day,” said Uushona.

Uushona feels without sign language interpreters, the deaf community is missing out on public information disseminated by government.

The 2011 National Census revealed there are over 98 000 disabled people in the country.

Source : New Era

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