Sign language education for all, Silanem Academy shows the way

There is a communication gap between the deaf community and those who can hear in the society which makes communication between these two parties difficult.

Because the deaf cannot hear what people say and vice versa, there is that kind of confusion because both parties do not understand each other.

Can you imagine a deaf person who goes to the hospital with an ailment to meet a doctor or a nurse who do not understand the sign language? How about a student in the classroom with a teacher and other students who do not understand sign language? How would they express themselves to each other?

Your guess is as good as mine.

This has led to calls by lots of people to include sign language in the educational curricula, so that children can start learning the sign language from their infancy at the basic schools to bridge the communication gap between the deaf and those who can hear.

International Sign Language Day

Sign language was first introduced in France in 1755 and in Ghana in 1957 by Dr. Andrew Foster, a deaf American.

The United Nations in its 2017 General Assembly proclaimed 23rd September as the International Day of Sign Languages in order to raise awareness of the importance of sign languages.

The day recognizes and promotes sign languages as an essential step towards ensuring inclusivity and eliminating discrimination. The day serves as an occasion to educate people about the importance of sign language, breaking myths and misconceptions.

Even before the Educational Sector of Ghana decides on inculcating sign language in the curriculum, a young man in Tarkwa, Richmond Baidoo has begun Sign Language school with the vision of training children in sign language.

As the world celebrates international Sign Language Day today Saturday Sept 23, Ghanaweb’s Western Regional Correspondent Thomas Tetteh decided to delve into the vision of a young man Richmond Baidoo for establishing a sign language school called Silanem Academy.

The motive behind Silanem

Speaking to Ghanaweb in an interview, the Executive Director of Silanem Academy, Richmond Baidoo noted that, he felt the need to bridge the communication gap between the deaf and those who can hear, hence the establishment of the sign language school; Silanem to train people.

He noted “being a sign language interpreter myself, when I look at the percentage of people who are deaf and the percentage of hearing people who understand sign language, it was huge. So I decided to start something in my own small way to help people to learn the sign language”

He added that, “The initial drive was to have more Sign Language trainees from the Police Service, Court, Health Services, Tertiary students, etc which was though achieved, but not to the fullest. This was due to the responsibilities and workload on these adult trainees. This limited the expected impacts of the Sign Language training”.

He explained that “Since I was not able to get my targeted adult groups, I was motivated to introduce Sign Language into basic schools in the year 2019 by forming my own academy where I can catch the children young”.

According to him, “so far, we have been able to train more than 450 children who are doing so well in using the sign language to communicate”.

He said “We have also been able to introduce the sign language to some private schools who have bought into the idea and inculcated it into their curriculum to help the children”.

Apart from teaching sign language in the private schools, “I run special sign language class for children and adults on weekends and evenings on weekdays”.

Sign Language Quiz Competition

Richmond Baidoo explained that, “as we teach the sign language in the schools, we try to let the public know what the children have been learning so far through quizzes. So as part of our campaign towards the International Day of Sign Language, SILANEM started organizing Sign Language Quiz Competition, called “SLA-DRILL” for schools that learn sign language. The aim is to bring to the attention of the general public that the use of sign language in our daily activities is possible, hence the need to embrace it”.

The first edition was held the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa last year.

He said “this year’s Preliminary contest will take place at the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT) on 7th October, 2023 and the Grand Finale at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) on 21st October, 2023, so we need the support of everyone”

Challenges

Richmond noted that “the challenge we face here is that some schools still don’t see the need to enroll their learners on the Sign Language training, hence, find it difficult to kickstart. But the few private schools that allow us, we try our best to use them because we believe we can start with small and get bigger few years to come”.

“Another challenge we face is lack of facilitators. Due to the sensitive nature of Sign Language and to ensure its legibility, we only permit facilitators we have trained. Currently we have only two facilities who help in teaching the children, so we intend to enroll more deaf facilitators so that the work can move on smoothly”, he added.

Mr Baidoo stated that “Currently, we are only into private schools in Tarkwa. However, we intend reaching out to at least 3 schools in every region of the country each year and in the next 5 years, we intend spearheading the teaching and learning of Sign Language across the country, which requires some financial muscles to do that”.

Improving Sign language in Ghana

To improve the study of sign language in Ghana, Richmond Baidoo pleaded with the government to assist in extending the teaching and Learning of Sign Language to all basic schools across Ghana.

He said “the intervention of the government will go a long way in stabilizing this condition. We side with the NCCE to say, “Catch them young”. We believe that the only solution to ensuring an inclusive society is by nurturing the next generation; Our children”.

“Misconceptions regarding issues of the Deaf as well as they being embraced could be made possible only by instilling in our children, about the Deaf culture”, he added.

He however commended the Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD) and the government for their immense support towards Sign Language advocacy.

“Through the intervention of GNAD, we currently have Nursing/Midwifery Training Colleges, Some Universities and other organizations in full support of Sign Language. However, more education is needed by the general public”, he stated.

Source: Ghana Web