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‘Cater for children who are deaf as well,’ education ministry urged

An organisation representing people living with disabilities has requested the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to respect the language rights of children who are deaf, seeing that they are excluded from educational radio classes.

Deaf Zimbabwe Trust (DFZ) said children who are deaf must also be benefit from educational lessons sponsored by the state.

The government rolled out of educational radio programmes, as part of its commitment to providing lessons during the COVID-19 induced school closure but sign language remains largely undocumented, undescribed, and undeveloped.

In an interview with CITE, DFZ Director Barbra Nyangairi said children who are deaf were neglected by the government in the alternative learning programme as they could not partake in radio classes.

“Children who are deaf have been again forgotten and left behind. Children who are Deaf and hard of hearing will not be able to benefit from alternative learning as they cannot access radio classes,” she said.

“Leaving behind a significant number of children in government programmes is discriminatory when authorities could have recorded video and audio at the same time including a sign language interpreter.”

Nyangairi reiterated that DFZ demanded the government to respect language rights of children who are deaf as specified in the constitution.  

“The government must uphold the tenets of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and make sure that the language rights of children who are Deaf and hard of hearing are respected and upheld. All learners should be treated equitably and fairly by making sure interventions are inclusive from the onset,” she said.

The director urged the education ministry to come up with alternative platforms so that children who are deaf do not wait for nine weeks to catch up.

“The education Ministry reports that Deaf children will be provided with TV lessons after nine and a half weeks, which means that other learners who can hear will be ahead by those nine weeks. The lack of regard for children who are Deaf and hard of hearing continues as the country still does not have a sign language curriculum for the Deaf children,” Nyangairi said.

She argued that lack of a harmonised sign language in Zimbabwe’s education system remains a challenge for inclusion as the country’s constitution celebrates seven years since its formulation.

“The exclusion of learners who are Deaf in alternative learning is unfair and discriminatory,” said the sign language activist.

Schools prematurely closed on March 24 for the First Term of the year as the government implemented measures to mitigate against the spread of the virus.

Schools are set to reopen on July 28 in a phased manner, starting with 2020 examination classes.

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