Dr Wisdom Kwadwo Mprah, a Senior Lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), has made a strong case for a national policy and educational reforms to help eliminate the communication barrier which continued to impede education of the deaf in Ghana.
He said the lack of a clear policy standardising the use of sign language in both mainstream and special schools for the deaf, had thrown teaching and learning in disarray, as teachers adopted varying approaches they deemed convenient.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency on the issue, Dr Mprah observed that while most mainstream schools were not accessible to deaf students due to language barrier, more than 90 percent of teachers in the about 16 basic schools and one Senior High School (SHS) for the deaf could not communicate in sign language.
According to Dr Mprah who is the Head of the Department of Health Promotion and Disabilities under the School of Public Health, teachers of deaf students rather learnt the sign language from their students, describing it as a very bad arrangement.
He said the situation was compounded by the lack of assistive devices such as hearing aids in majority of the schools and consequently, only a handful of deaf students were able to go beyond the SHS level.
“Those who are in tertiary are also suffering. Apart from the Presbyterian College of Education at Akropong in the Eastern Region, and I think, Takoradi Technical University, where there are permanent interpreters, other institutions do not have.
“Winneba, for example, has a large number of deaf students but often uses other students to interpret for deaf students. So, some deaf students do not have access to interpretation services. Those who have, do not get skilled interpreters,” Dr Mprah revealed.
“The main thing that can break the communication barrier is using sign language interpreters, and or teachers who can sign fluently but none of this is adequately available,” he lamented.
Dr Mprah, therefore, urged teacher training institutions to provide adequate training for teachers for deaf schools.
“This training should cover areas such as the use of sign language, attitude towards deaf children, how to teach deaf children [a course on deaf education], among others,” he said.
He further called for an adjustment of the current curriculum to cater for the needs of deaf students.
He said educational institutions, especially those that handled deaf students should be adequately resourced in the spirit of inclusive education.
He also called on parents to take keen interest in the education of their deaf children and treat them equally as their hearing siblings.
“They should learn to communicate with their deaf children. This is very important but difficult to implement and so it requires a lot of advocacy,” he added.