MANAD distributes digital Malawian sign language books to deaf schools

Malawi National Association of the Deaf (MANAD) has distributed digital Malawian sign language books to seven schools for the deaf to help mitigate challenges that learners with hearing impairments face to access education.

The beneficiary schools include Mua School for the Deaf, Mary View School for the Deaf, Mountain View School for Deaf, Karonga School for the Deaf, Nthalire School for the Deaf in Chitipa, Bandawe School for the Deaf, and Embagweni School for the Deaf in Mzimba.

Speaking when he handed over the gadgets to the special needs teachers at Mponela in Dowa on Friday, MANAD MSL Accessible Content Coordinator, Sekerani Kufakwina, said the digital sign language books are aimed at improving literacy levels among children with hearing impairments.

Kufakwina said their recent study found that most deaf children have low reading skills, which contribute to low literacy levels.

“We intend to have the Sign Language Story Books in Malawian Sign Language version be utilised and used by the targeted beneficiaries who are deaf child’s ecosystem so that they help in improving literacy levels. This is against the background of Reading for All Research findings that found that most deaf children have low reading skills that contribute to low literacy levels and they have been in an environment where they were deprived of language developments,” he explained.

Kufakwina disclosed that the association has, so far, trained 34 special needs teachers, head teachers and the District Inclusive Education Officers who are expected to play a critical role in the ensuring full utilization of the resources.

He added that the gadgets will also improve the bond between parents and their deaf children. Kufakwina observed that most parents do not interact with their deaf children because they lack sign language skills.

Chief Education Officer responsible for Inclusive Education in the Ministry of Education, Peter Msendema said the supplementary books are part of the response on the challenges that deaf people face since they affect levels of education in the country, adding that government will make sure they work hand in hand with MANAD to address the challenges.

Msendema (2nd from right) handing over the digital Malawian sign langauge gadgets to one of the teachers–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu

“The ministry will take part in training teachers to ensure we have adequate special needs teachers, train parents in sign language and also encourage establishment of clubs in schools in order to equip both teachers and learners with sign language skills for better communication,” said Msendema.

Msendema added that the ministry has created inclusive education whereby they want to ensure that sign language is a medium for communication and that the ministry will also introduce a sign language course which will help to equip people with sign language for easy communication.

MANAD is implementing ‘All Children Reading’ Project, which aims at improving the education levels of deaf people by strengthening means of accessing reading materials in Malawian Sign Language (MSL).

The project wants to ensure that deaf children have access to quality education through digital books, which will help in social inclusion; whereby, teachers and parents alike will be able to learn how to communicate with deaf people through these digital books.

The project will run for seven months targeting six specialized deaf schools, special needs education teachers, parents of deaf children and ECD caregivers, whereby the books will be in video and audio format as well as 50 printed books will be distributed.

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