Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera says it is time sign language gets the same status as spoken language by adopting its usage everywhere, at every function and by every institution so that nobody is left behind in the development and economic growth of the country.
Speaking in Lilongwe Wednesday at the commemoration of the International Day of Sign Languages, Chakwera expressed dismay that the implementation of policies that make government institutions and services accessible and user friendly to people with hearing impairments over the years has left a lot to be desired.
The president advised people to stop thinking of sign language as a favour to deaf people because every person has the right to acquire a language from the moment they are born, and that includes sign language for persons born with hearing impairments.
“I know that over the years, the implementation of policies that make government institutions and services accessible and user friendly to people with hearing impairments has left a lot to be desired.
“Examples of this failure are clear and present in every sector, including in our schools, our health facilities, our markets, our points of entry, our media, our financial institutions, and our places of work.
“In fact, when it comes to inclusivity towards deaf people, I can think of no place where there is no yawning gap between policy and practice,” added Chakwera
President Chakwera said this has left deaf people greatly disenfranchised and disadvantaged.
“My Administration is committed to the task of closing this gap. It is because of this commitment that our 2022/2023 budget will include resources for specialist and sign language training for the establishment of more resource centres, and for renovating existing resource centres,” Chakwera said.
“We are working tirelessly to train more sign language interpreters in the country.
“The ministry is working with various stakeholders and soon we will have the required trained sign language interpreters in the country.”
In his remarks, Malawi National Association for the Deaf (MANAD) Board Chairperson Stephan Maneya expressed disappointment at the absence of sign language interpreters at most business places in the country.
As a measure to bridge the communication barrier between the deaf and the community, Maneya said his organization is in the process of coming up with a Malawian sign language dictionary which will be shared with different stakeholders to help mitigate the situation.
“Work on the Malawian sign language dictionary is almost complete but we don’t have enough resources to enable us produce more copies to be shared with shareholders. We therefore ask government to come in and assist us,” he emphasized
“We also have limited number of sign language interpreters which makes it difficult to reach out to almost 400,000 deaf people in the country.”
Miss Deaf Africa, Chimwemwe Kankwamba also complained that the deaf are often discriminated against when it comes to employment despite holding the right qualifications.
Maneya also pleaded with government to consider rolling out special secondary schools for the deaf.
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are over 70 million deaf people in the world, 80 percent of them living in developing countries, and collectively use more than 300 different sign languages.
Set aside by the United Nations (UN) to appreciate the importance of sign language for deaf people, the day was first celebrated in 2018 as part of the International Week, which was first celebrated in September 1958.
This year’s event is themed “We sign for our rights”, highlighting how both the deaf and hearing people can work together to promote recognition of the right to use sign languages.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :