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Schools to include sign language in curriculum

Mon, 24 August 2015 17:27
by Frans Nghandi
Education

The Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs and Marginalised People, Alexia Manambe-Ncube, said that government is looking into integrating sign language education into normal school curriculum. Previously, sign language education was only offered at special schools for children with disabilities.

“Government is looking at making sign language a compulsory subject the same way that English and Mathematics are a compulsory subjects in some courses (offered at school). It will then become part of the vocational training curriculums at institutions of higher education and not something that someone will study on a self-interest basis,” Manambe-Ncube said.

The introduction of sign language in the curriculum of institutions of higher learning is mainly aimed at targeting individuals that want to pursue studies in the health and education fields, because they are bound to work with the public on a daily basis.

According to the conference on Education for Children with Disabilities organised by the Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities in collaboration with the government of the Kingdom of Swaziland and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa which took place on 14 June 2012, inclusive education for children and young people with disabilities removes barriers in organisation, environment, attitude, teaching and learning in mainstream schools and colleges for people with disabilities, so that they can achieve their academic and social potential.

An InterAmerican Development Bank seminar on inclusion and disability which took place in Chile, Santiago on the 16 March 2001, noted that for inclusive education to be successful for all children and people with disabilities, it requires the full involvement of all stakeholders and the curriculum assessment needs to be flexible.

All child-centred teachers need training in this curriculum assessment education to prepare them for implementing inclusive education with competence in braille, sign language and alternative and augmented communication.

The agenda of inclusive education also presents a considerable challenge as pointed out in the Education Sector Review (2006) aide-memoire for Tanzania. The challenges are mainly ensuring children from poor families, orphans and children with disabilities have access to sign language education, as well as training and use of sign language by teachers and interpreters. Recruiting and training teachers for inclusive education is also among the challenges.

According to the African Union for the Blind (AFUB) it is for this reason that the World Blind Union and AFUB in partnership with the International Council for the Education of people with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) launched the Education for All Visually Impaired (EFA VI) campaign in Africa in 2007.

Since January 2009, AFUB has been the regional coordinator for the EFA-VI Africa campaign. Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Burkina Faso have been targeted as focus countries. The campaign is aimed at adding more focus countries as they progress.

An inclusive education project funded by the Canadian government (CIDA) through the World Braille Foundation and implemented jointly by the African Union of the Blind and ICEVI has witnessed an increase in the enrollment of visually impaired learners in two countries.

Niger has enrolled 20, while Swaziland has enrolled five. This two-year project that commenced in July 2009 aimed to enroll at least 80 children in both countries. ICEVI led a team of experts who developed and piloted an in-service training curriculum for special needs teachers. Similarly, a training curriculum for teaching assistants has been developed and piloted.

This cadre of staff support for children in inclusive schools was implemented in the project.

This model of teaching assistants is new in the region and the Government of Swaziland has shown willingness to embrace it into its system by employing the staff at the end of the project cycle.