Deaf community says the proposed 2022-2023 National Budget is a departure from Chakwera’s commitments

Malawi National Association for the Deaf (MANAD) has expressed disappointment with the proposed 2022-2023 National Budget, saying it does not address its longstanding grievances.

MANAD Executive Director Byson Chimenya said what the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Sosten Gwengwe, presented in the National Assembly is a total departure from what President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera promised to the deaf community in Malawi.

Chimenya said they expected a budget that would address the “acute shortage of Sign Language Interpreters” as promised by Chakwera when he graced the commemoration of this year’s International Day of Sign Language and Deaf Week in Lilongwe last year.

Chimenya–We need more financial support–Photo by Kondwani Magombo, Mana

In his speech, Chakwera said his government had committed to include resources in the 2022/23 national budget for Specialist and Sign Language training, establishment of more resource centres, and for renovating existing resource centres.

“It is because of this commitment that we are supporting the reproduction of the first ever Malawian Sign Language Dictionary developed by MANAD, to help harmonize the existing Sign Languages in Malawi into one Malawian Sign Language. It is because of this commitment that we will give students with hearing impairments the right teaching and learning materials, including hearing aids and amplifiers, as well as specialist teachers and Sign Language interpreters,” said Chakwera.

This notwithstanding, the proposed 2022-2023 National Budget does not have allocation towards the sector the President highlighted in his speech at the International Day of Sign Language and Deaf Week.

This has disappointed the deaf community, which feels the President was playing rhetoric on the matter.

In an interview on Wednesday, Chimenya accused the government of running away from its responsibility and simply expecting charities and well-wishers to do everything for it in the deaf sector.

“We are tired and we are taken for granted with promises and promises all year in and out. A notable promise was made in 2020 when the minister pledged to train 300 Sign Language Interpreters, but nothing has taken place,” he said.

“As per the HE [His Excellency]’s speech, we also expected the state to train more Sign Language Interpreters. We, the deaf community, are not an alien to this country that the government should continue sidellining us. Year in year out, the government has been making promises, which it doesn’t fulfil. We expected the government to build at least one secondary school for deaf this year. It’s a shame to see that a secondary school for the deaf has not been built since attaining independence as far as dwindling of deaf education is concerned,” added Chimenya.

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