Kathmandu: Himal Guragain, a hearing impaired boy, has been pursuing Bachelor’s Third Year course at the Central Campus for the Deaf in Naxal, Kathmandu. He had a wish to pursue information technology or commerce in Bachelor's level after completing Plus Two level. But, his wish remained unfulfilled, as the curriculum at his college lacks these subjects. Moreover, there are no other colleges offering more separate subjects deaf people like Guragain choose to pursue. This is the only college offering higher education to the hearing impaired.
“At our college, there is only one curriculum that offers limited subjects. I wished to pursue information technology or account. But our campus curriculum lacks these streams,” he said.
In the context wherein there are more than 100,000 words related to sign language, and more than 5,000 sign language vocabularies, only a few schools and campuses in Nepal are offering limited subjects, according to him. This has made the matter worse for deaf people like him.
“I had to visit Kathmandu, the federal capital, for higher education as my village or nearby towns lack a college offering education to hearing impaired people. It is difficult for us to sustain in Kathmandu. It is harder for those of them from the poor families. We need scholarships.”
A lack of skilled and experienced teachers to teach particular subjects like information technology and account to hearing impaired people has been a matter of concern, he said.
“Teachers need a good command over sign language and special skills to understand facial expression of hearing impaired people. But, most of schools offering education to them lack skilled teachers. A school offers a curriculum of nine subjects, and 45 minutes are allotted for each subject. The fact is that around 90 percent students cannot understand what lessons are offered to them. It takes time for them to understand,” he said.
The current curriculum for hearing impaired people is not suitable, and they need another curriculum, he viewed.
Rabita Deula who is studying at the same college is facing the same problem as Guragain’s. They are facing difficulties due to lack of skilled teachers and interpreters who translate their language. There are a total of 22 special schools and 174 integrated schools with resource classes across the country, which are accessible for hearing impaired people, according to the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal (NDFN).
These schools have 6,380 hearing impaired people, and 204 deaf and blind children, it said. But, these educational institutions lack skilled and experienced teachers with knowledge about sign language, thus making it difficult for hearing and visually impaired children, it said.
Of the two types of persons with disabilities, deaf and blind children who either cannot hear and see or can partially hear and see require teaching through the special mediums of touch, taste, smell and movements. Those who are hearing impaired need to be taught through sign language and bilingual method.
According to the 2011 census, there are 88,743 hearing impaired people in the country. The constitution of the country has guaranteed that each Nepali community has the right to get education in their mother tongue, and educational institutions should be opened and run for them.
Similarly, laws have it that hearing and speech impaired people have right to free education through sign language. Article 32 of the constitution has it that each individual and community has right to use their language. Schedule 8 of the constitution has a provision that basic and secondary level education falls within the purview of the local level. The constitution has also guaranteed compulsory and free basic education, free secondary education and scholarships for higher education.
The Act relating to Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2074 BS has a provision that differently-abled people including hearing impaired ones, people with hard of hearing, and deaf and blind should get education through appropriate language, script, method, curriculums and through the use of information technology.
The government has made arrangements for separate examination and evaluation system based on the poverty, geographical difficulties and severity of persons with disabilities so as to provide education alongside boarding facilities for them, and for building disabled people friendly educational materials, school buildings and physical structures.
But, a lack of their access to these facilities, and their participation in learning have become a setback for them to get education.
Although private educational institutions are bound to provide free education to them as per the government’s decision, there is a problem in its implementation. The Act relating to Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the related Regulations, 2077 BS have guaranteed scholarship up to the Bachelor’s level for children of hearing impaired parents. The National Medical Education Act, 2075 BS and Regulations, 2077 BS has also provisioned 10 percent scholarship to marginalised communities.
Similarly, the Education Act, 2028 BS, the Education Rules, 2059 BS and the Act relating to Compulsory and Free Education, 2075BS have guaranteed facilitation in providing learning activities to hearing impaired children that are adaptable with the curriculum suitable for their learning needs, and educational activities.
The NDFN has been demanding that hearing impaired people should be provided with education through their medium language, and the availability of substantial vocabulary and grammar in sign language. Other demands are the management of interpreters for them in mainstream universities and their welcome and acceptance by them, the creation of environment conducive for helping them learn, the development of inclusive culture, and access to technical and vocational education for them.
There are a total of 138 sign languages in use across the globe, and they are used through 300 different ways. Sign language was for the first time validated in the world in 1992. So far, 61 countries in their constitution, acts and regulations have given validity to sign language.
The Language Commission in Nepal has recommended that the government promotes sign language.
According to the National Education Policy, 2076 BS, children with disabilities should get appropriate educational opportunities through special and inclusive education based on their need and the principle of inclusiveness. It has provisioned scholarship, educational materials and other management for hearing impaired children.
The Federation General Secretary Santosh KC said factors like variation in ‘local sign language, failure to use substantial vocabulary in using sign language, thus disseminating otherwise message in signaling subject codes by the speaker, and hearing related problems in learning activities have been a drawback.
Stating that words signaled are not substantial for higher education, Rishiram Devkota, who teaches at the Central College for the Deaf, stressed the need for making some available words meaningful. There should not be deviation in signaling words, and there should be the habit of using sign language dictionary. Similarly, there should be clear pictorial signs in the dictionary, he viewed.
There is minimal use of sign languages in mathematics, science and social studies, he said. Similarly, there is the trend of accepting only sign language in learning and teaching method, and the minimal use of visual materials and technology and learning and teaching activities online, according to him. Although providing education to hearing impaired people has been accepted as their right, they are yet to get access to quality education due to the society’s outlook towards them, a lack of required workforce for inclusive education and a lack of teachers’ readiness and efficiency to facilitate in learning and teaching activities, he said.
In Nepal, sign language has developed in 2037 BS after the existing Kathmandu Association of the Deaf was developed following the establishment of the then Deaf Club. The campaign to organise hearing impaired people started after Italian tourists saw and identified a group of hearing impaired people in Basundhara in Kathmandu, it is believed.
Nepali sign language was developed on the initiatives of a community of hearing impaired people. First published in 2052 BS, the Nepali sign language dictionary has seen its seventh publication so far, and there are 4,700 vocabularies in it. Some factors like a lack of the government’s initiatives to make any policies and rules regarding sign language, confusion in which ministry is responsible to develop sign language, a lack of hearing impaired people’s friendly curriculum and the dependence on donors to provide training for related teachers have been a matter of concern, said the NDFN President Kedar Prasad Adhikari.
[Translated by Pritam Bhattarai]