The Necessity Of Sign Language In Mainstream Education

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…. A Tool To Promote Inclusive Education In Ghana

By: Mavis Yaa Konadu Agyemang

People with hearing difficulties around the world communicate using sign language, which is different from spoken language in their everyday lives.

A sign language is a visual language that uses a system of manual, facial and body movements as the way of communication, it is not a universal language and different sign languages are used in different countries, like the many spoken languages all over the world.

Hearing difficulty communities all over the world, endeavor to have their sign languages recognized as fully fledged languages and to secure their right to live daily life in their sign language.

If the right to education for all is to become a certainty, we must make sure that all learners have access to quality education that meets basic learning requirements and enriches lives. At the moment, millions of children, youth and adults continue to experience segregation within and from education around the world. The UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), and other international human rights treaties disallow any exclusion from or restriction to educational prospects on the bases of socially attributed or perceived differences, such as sex, ethnic origin, language, religion, social origin, economic condition, nationality and ability. According to UNESCO, education is not just about making schools available for those who can access them. Rather it is about being proactive in identifying the barriers and obstacles learners face in trying to access opportunities for quality education, as well as in removing those difficulties and obstructions that lead to exclusive education.

Inclusive education is an ongoing process of tackling and responding to the multiplicity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities and suppressing exclusion within education. It involves amends and modifications in content, approaches, organisation and strategies with a common vision which takes care of all children of the appropriate age range and an assurance that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children (UNESCO, 2005;2009).

However as other languages like English, Twi, French, Spanish and Chinese are taught from the primary level and the Tertiary level, sign language can as well be included in the educational system in order to teach students all over the country. It is said that children that learn together learn to live together, therefore, if children are taught sign language in schools they will learn to interact with each other through play and relate well with each other and thus hearing difficulties will not be seen as a disability but a state of being and this will help fill the gap of difference among children.

Inculcating sign language in the mainstream education will serve as an employment avenue for people. People who learn the language at the tertiary level will be employed in the various educational institutions and this will motivate more people to choose the language as a course; hence this will allow other institutions to make provisions to provide more employment opportunities.

This will go a long way to promote a better inclusive education since students with hearing difficulties will be able to attend the regular schools; hence they will have options as to choose a regular school or a special school and will reduce the restriction as to where to pursue their education and this will help subside the discrimination in accessing their educational right.

This will also give parents the opportunity to sign up their children in schools and to bridge the literacy difference between those with hearing difficulties and those who are not.

Furthermore, it will help encourage a good relationship as a key to national development. Persons with hearing difficulties will have a form of security and feel accepted if other people can speak their language other than them. It will help reduce any form of language barrier that hamper their development and their contribution and they will be able to work in most places in the economy as they are able to open up their relation with other people. Since participation is key to development, this will make sure these group of people are involved in decision making at all tiers in their lifetime.

Sign language can be taught in the various specialized schools as well, including the medical schools to prepare them to offer services to the hearing difficulties without any form of hindrance.

I believe that the inclusion of sign language in mainstream education will help reduce the number of these children who do not attend school.

Even though there might be some ongoing debates about inclusive education, I think the question of same school-same classroom or same school-separate classroom is not a matter in this context it is however necessary for educational advocates and social workers to participate in this discussion and to advocate for the implementation of making sign language one of the courses taught in our various schools to help remove these barriers that hinder these children with hearing difficulties from reaching their full potential.

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