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Guide Diversity in deaf education

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The education of the deaf in Kenya is a good example of how the right to education of whole community has been violated thus contravening the UN convention on human rights. This article discusses the situation of the deaf in Kenya, focusing on education, since education has a formative effect on the mind, character and physical ability of an individual.

Diversity in Deaf Education

The importance of education in people's lives cannot be gainsaid. This importance is reflected in the kind of infrastructural development that governments engage in as far as education is concerned. However, a small percentage of this is channeled to special Education. For instance, while the Kenyan government is priding itself in free primary and secondary education, free education has not been implemented in special schools, thus, having a negative effect in as far as special education is concerned.

The educational environment, within which the deaf pupils find themselves specifically, is far from being conducive and thus hinders the capabilities of a deaf child from reaching their fullest education potential. Firstly, the physical environment the deaf children find themselves in the schools is far from conducive in as far as infrastructure is concerned and this impacts negatively on their education.

Selected Topic Of Interest, 1997: Cultural Identity and Diversity in Deaf Education

In effect, the PS was confirming the truth as stated above. This has been made worse by the inclusive policy adopted by the ministry of education, which has seen the mushrooming of many units of the deaf across the country in regular schools. The physical environment in the schools for the deaf and the units for the deaf therefore is pathetic to say the least.

Most units for the deaf are situated in regular schools.

Deaf/hard of hearing teaching licensure and MEd

This means that a school that has predominantly hearing students is required to start a small unit for the deaf within its compound. While the hearing pupils go through school systematically from class , and don't experience any mixing of pupils of different classes in the same room, this is the order of the day in most units for the deaf. In other words, it is not uncommon to find pupils who are in different stages of learning all mixed up in one classroom.

Diversity in Deaf Education

Some questions that one may ask are: How possible is it for one teacher to teach pupils of different ages and levels in terms of class in the same room at the same time? How is it possible to teach such children who obviously have different linguistic capabilities together? The schools for the deaf maybe better in terms of infrastructure as compared to the units since they were established as institutions for the deaf.

But as pointed out earlier, very little or no funds are remitted to these schools. As if that is not enough, most parents with deaf children are poor and cannot therefore afford to pay the fees charged in these schools. As a result, we have a huge drop-out rate of deaf children at all levels of education.

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With this kind of learning environment, therefore, it is little wonder that since independence, no deaf person educated in Kenya has reached the high echelons of education or professionalism in almost all the fields. Would this kind of environment be allowed to happen in regular schools with hearing pupils? Secondly, the quality of teachers posted to these institutions for the deaf is below par. Most are professional teachers, but they lack the linguistic knowhow to use KSL to impart knowledge to the deaf.

According to Okombo [ ], p. For thirty years, our teachers have tried to speak to deaf children but they have failed. And because of this failure, our teachers have come to the conclusion that the Deaf are not meant for college and University education. The teachers feel successful if a deaf child is able to mumble some few words and can do some elementary job as a craftsman, say in a carpentry shop. This is what we call Deaf Education in Kenya. Teachers in educational institutions are supposed to impart knowledge to students through the various subjects they teach. However, in the institutions for the deaf, the teachers are handicapped linguistically and therefore little or no learning takes place.

This is because while the deaf use a visual mode of communication, the teachers, most of whom are hearing, use the oral mode of communication. If education is responsible for the transmission of a people's culture or accumulated knowledge from one generation to the next, this function of education for the deaf is non existent.

Something needs to be done and really fast to salvage this sad situation in Kenyan schools and units for the deaf. Mother tongue or L1 can be viewed as the language that one learns at home mainly from parents. In some quarters, it is viewed as the language of one's ethnicity, sometimes disregarding one's proficiency in the same. In the Kenyan multilingual scenario, the significance of MT cannot be gainsaid as was acknowledged by the Gachathi commission report of , which recommended that the language used in a school's catchment area should be the medium of instruction in lower primary School Std.


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From class 4 onwards English takes over as the medium of instructions. In Kenya, for example, students are at times punished physically for using their MT in schools in efforts to promote use of the official language. For the deaf child, the language problem is even bigger. Either their parents have taken time to learn sign language or they acquired it naturally in their homes where their parents are deaf and therefore use sign language as the language of the home.

One major problem is that in many schools for the deaf, teachers have often used the assimilationist approach in teaching language to the deaf. It is important to note that a born deaf or a profoundly deaf person has no ability to learn a spoken language, especially to speak it as is implied by the oralism approach. Deaf people have the capacity though to learn a spoken language to be able to read silently and write it if the approach used for teaching is appropriate. In other words, any appropriate approach to Deaf Education must realistically be visual. Teaching the deaf how to speak does not make the deaf equal partners to their hearing siblings.

If the deaf cannot hear, how can they be expected to speak? The deaf need a visual language. There must be clear-cut language policies that recognize SL as the MT for the deaf.


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  5. In Kenya, the deaf must be allowed to get their education through the use of KSL as a medium of instructions in their schools. The National Special needs education policy of 10th March launched by the Ministry of Education, tries to address this issue but the policy is long on intentions but short on specifics.

    It does not, for instance, take into consideration the unique needs of each disabled group. For example, the needs of one who is physically handicapped but who can hear are different from one who is lame but also deaf. A blind person may need a cane and Braille in school for purposes of learning but a deaf- blind person may need much more than this. Lumping all the disabled people in one group, then having one policy to manage them, does not effectively address the needs of each group with their disabilities.

    A realistic policy should take into cognizance their unique needs.

    Diversity in Deaf Education - Oxford Scholarship

    For the deaf who are the subject of this article, for example, KSL as a MT must be taken into consideration. It is, therefore, unrealistic to plan the same kind of special education for children with different disabilities. It seems that those involved in education planning take special education to mean education of the disabled and do not consider the differences between the disabilities.

    It is not enough to come up with high sounding vision and mission statements as exemplified in the National Special Needs Education Policy seen below:.


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    These are high sounding ideals but the reality on the ground is totally different. It is unfair to start with lumping together people with disabilities with others who only have special needs but are not disabled. This is a pointer to the lack of understanding on these issues by the policy makers who in most cases are not disabled themselves. Disabled people do not need help per se. They need clear policies that they are also involved in identifying and proposing what will give them equal opportunities like their able bodied and hearing brothers and sisters.

    The recommendations that the language used in a school's catchment area should be the medium of instruction in lower primary school Std. It appears like the policy was formulated with the hearing in mind. For the case of the deaf, they ideally require the use of their MT Kenya Sign Language KSL as a medium of instruction from kindergarten to college and university.

    At the same time, KSL could also be taught as an optional language in the curriculum. As it is now, there is no language policy in place to promote the use of KSL in schools for the deaf. Any language policy for the deaf education should take into consideration teaching academic content in KSL. In regular schools the recommendation is that academic content be taught in two languages i. MT class and English thereafter - this being a form of transitional bilingualism used mainly for English only acquisition. For the deaf, the medium of instruction should be KSL, which is also their mother tongue.

    However, after class 3 when the pupils in regular schools are switching from one spoken language to another as a medium of instruction, the deaf should continue to use KSL as a medium of instruction and use it to learn second, third or more spoken languages. This can be referred to as late-exit or developmental bilingual education. It occurs in situations where education is done in the child's native language for an extended duration. In this case the deaf in Kenya should use KSL throughout their educational life.

    Cross-Generation Experiences in Deaf Education