WHAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS PLANNING FOR THE DEAF IN NIGERIA

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Mathias Ubugha

The world and its awesome wonders is too beautiful for anyone not to see it. Thus, you can imagine what the blind in the society are going through.

However, not being able to hear anything could also be traumatizing enough to leave one quiet and cold in his ever silent world.

Imagine not being able to get announcements in public places and events.

Imagine how frustrating it is to communicate with someone in the dark. Without adequate light, it can quickly become almost impossible to speak effectively with others. It’s just too dark to see anything that could be interpreted effectively.

Imagine having to rely on touch almost all the time to get the attention of others. What if they are far away?

Worst of all, think of how long it takes to share a simple information because you can’t be understood by the majority who don’t understand sign language.

The Soukup family—three generations of deaf men—have watched these changes and roadblocks unfold. When a big storm destroyed Ben Soukup Sr.’s farm in 1960, he went to banks all over town to get a loan to rebuild. Every one of them denied his application for one simple reason: He was deaf.

His son never forgot the experience of watching his dad lose his farm and ended up dedicating his life to helping deaf individuals communicate with the world around them, a legacy carried on by his own son, Chris, nearly half a century later. Ben Soukup Jr. founded the nonprofit Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), one of a number of nonprofits in the U.S. dedicated to empowering deaf individuals, and Chris has continued the work as the organization’s CEO.

According to the book “Deaf Heritage: A Narrative History of Deaf America” by Jack Gannon, the expression “deaf and dumb” was a label used by the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Aristole felt that deaf people were not able to learn or reason. “Deaf and dumb” has come to mean silent. The deaf are not “dumb” or “mute.”

Though no one wished to be born deaf, the truth remains that we have them in our society as our friends, brothers, sisters, spouses and employees.

Treat (2016) reports that 23.7% of Nigerians have hearing impairment (total deafness, hearing loss, or other hearing-related impairment) in a country of more than 155 million people. Also, up to 84% of deaf population in Nigeria remain undereducated and economically underdeveloped.

Unfortunately, some people who can hear have falsely assumed that people with hearing loss who do not speak well are not intelligent or have much going for them. There is no relationship between hearing loss and intelligence. This therefore brings to bare the reality that the deaf amongst us can and should equally be educated.

Deaf education was first introduced by Andrew Foster in 1957, there was no deaf education or organizations prior to that. He introduced Ghanaian Sign Language, a dialect of American Sign Language (ASL). In 1960, Nigerian Sign Language was introduced, also as dialect of ASL and it is the national sign language of Nigeria.

Consequently, it has become a social concerns as children who are deaf often tend to feel uncomfortable in the classroom when drawing attention to their hearing problem. They want to be like their friends with ‘normal’ hearing, so this drives them to mainly keep to themselves and prefer to not take part in classroom activities.
Hence, the need for the deaf to have their own learning environment.

Much hope for a rapid development of deaf communities and deaf education was raised among deaf learners and deaf educators in 1976 when the Federal Government took over the responsibility of running the emerging Schools for the Deaf to provide basic education for the Nigerian deaf children (Eleweke, 2002; Treat, 2016). Four decades after this, the situation remains discouraging and the development of deaf communities and sign language(s) in Nigeria remains gloomy. Deaf education in Nigeria is still far below standard in comparison with deaf education in developed nations (Abiodun-Ekus & Edwards, n.d.; Eleweke, 2002)

The Deaf community in Abuja is made up of three schools: Special School for the Deaf, Kuje; Junior Secondary School Pasali (inclusive); and Government Secondary School Kuje. The schools in Abuja are located at Kuje, a few kilometers away from the Capital City.

The three schools share the same environment demarcated with walls. Deaf students graduate from the special (primary) school after 6 years to the inclusive junior secondary school and to the inclusive senior secondary school, all of which are at the same location.

All the primary and junior secondary students live in the same dormitory with some of their Deaf teachers living around in the quarters. As a result, there is an ample practice of deaf mentoring, although not defined.

The primary school and the junior secondary have teachers that use sign language to teach their own subjects and interpret for other nonsigning teachers, giving each of the six signing teachers at least 6hr of teaching every day.

There are three Schools that make up the Deaf community in Imo State Nigeria; Imo State Special Education Resource Center, Wetheral Road Owerri; Primary School for the Deaf and Mentally Challenged Orlu; and Secondary School for the Deaf, Ofekata Orodo.

The schools for the Deaf in Abuja, Orlu, and Orodo 2 are separated from the wider society by their gated walls. Inside the world of these students is life, passion, zeal, and the desire to excel.

However, they are trapped in their own world and their only source of communication is to their colleagues and teachers who sometimes understand them better than their families.

Often times, schools are not capable of supplying their deaf or hard-of-hearing students with the proper technology that could significantly increase the learning development process.

This could be any form of assistive technology – interactive whiteboards, VRI, chat rooms, strobe lights, digital pen technology, closed captioning on all movies and videos, infra-red systems – hearing aid compatible, computer assisted note taking, ASL videos for testing materials, alert systems such as vibrating systems, and alarms and interpreters in the classroom.

Today, there are many schools for the Deaf, special education centers and deaf units established within regular schools, owned and run by the government and some others owned by private organizations and missionary bodies.

It is to this end that the Federal Government has reached an agreement with Gallaudet University in the United States for the establishment of a University for the Deaf either in Abuja or Sagamu, Ogun State.

The Nigerian National Association of the Deaf, which broke the news, also said that a series of meetings had been held with the National Universities Commission, Federal Ministry of Education, National Assembly leadership and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board on the proposed university.

A joint communique issued after the event also called on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, establish a commission for persons with disabilities to expedite action on inclusion process and mainstreaming disability in governance for the next level agenda.
(Source:https://www.google.com/amp/s/punchng.com/fg-to-establish-varsity-for-deaf-people/amp/)

It is expedient to state here, as I wrap up this article, that lack of hearing doesn’t mean lack of ability.

This really goes without saying, but deaf people can do anything a hearing person can do, except to hear.

Deaf people are completely capable of leading a quality life, they can drive, have a job and have successful relationships.

They are “able” and capable of contributing meaningfully to society, and with support, motivation, and the right training, they can achieve their dreams.
THE END

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