Poor Education Concerns Deaf Association

THE association for the deaf in Namibia yesterday met the Minister of Education to express concerns with the way the government is treating its members regarding access to education.

Among the concerns raised by the Namibian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD), is that its members can only go up to Grade 10 because there are no facilities to enable them to acquire further education.

The association says it has 27 000 members, while according to the 2011 census, there were more than 600 deaf learners.

The association’s national director, Paul Nanyeni, told education minister David Namwandi that there are only two schools that cater solely for the deaf in the country, and four other units for the deaf.

Nanyeni said the two schools – Eluwa Special School in Ongwediva and the National Institute for Special Education in Windhoek – only offer classes up to Grade 10.

“We do not have secondary schools for the deaf learners. This is very discouraging to the deaf learners as they cannot see the possibility of succeeding through the mainstream system that is practised,” said Nanyeni.

The association’s director also said national examinations are issued without any special arrangement for the pupils and that in some cases, the pupils are examined on a syllabus they would not have been taught.

“Equipment in the special schools is not sufficient to promote visual learning. Deaf learners’ teaching and learning are promoted by more visual cues,” he explained.

He also said another challenge is that the teachers employed at these schools are not well-trained in sign language, which at times makes communication impossible, because appointed teachers have to shift from spoken to sign language.

“This is more true when the appointed sign language interpreters are not well-experienced and make daily learning cumbersome to the learners,” said Nanyeni, adding that this is a challenging task.

He added that some teachers are not conversant in sign language and are not properly offered support to attain the full level of language proficiency.

Nanyeni bemoaned the fact that government is not employing qualified deaf assistant teachers for schools where there are units for the deaf.

He gave the example of Cosmos High School in Khomas and Mweshipandeka SS in Oshana where he said the services rendered to the pupils are very poor.

In addition, he said there are times when a teacher with no experience to teach sign language is appointed, while experienced teachers are overlooked.

“Sign language interpreters appointed to assist those learners are not experienced either, and this make the learning process very difficult for the deaf learners,” he claimed. “Some of such situations are a result of poor consultation between the deaf organisation and the stakeholders in education. The aice of NNAD is disregarded.”

Namwandi yesterday said the meeting was fruitful: “All parties vowed to continue with consultation.”

The education ministry’s deputy director for special programmes and schools, Inani Kahikuata, said it was expensive to hire interpreters and that the ministry could not afford to have a teacher and an interpreter in one classroom.

“The only way the ministry can solve this problem is to train teachers in sign language because it is too expensive to pay interpreters,” said Kahikuata, adding that her ministry in conjunction with the University of Namibia was training teachers in sign language.

Kahikuata said the ministry to have an interpreter and a teacher in one classroom but it is introducing a new system.

“Now we have introduced the new system to have teachers teaching subjects and interpreting in sign language,” she said.

She also proposed that there is a need for the association for the deaf to work with the education ministry to enhance skills.

Source : The Namibian