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Report on the life of Deaf people in India
Dear Sir or Madam,
Shri.Murali Kuppusamy has asked me to write a report on our recent tour visiting different schools for deaf students and giving workshops at several Deaf Associations in South India. It is a honor for me to present the report to you today. First of all, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Aya Katharina Kremp from Berlin, Germany. I am deaf and work as a deaf teacher at a deaf school in Berlin.
When reading this report, I would like to ask the reader to keep in mind that this report is written by an outsider who is not an Indian person or has been living in India for several years. The report is written by a female, deaf, white and German person who had the own personal motivation to learn more about the lives of deaf people in developing countries like India. During the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) Congress in Montreal, Canada, in 2003, I met. Murali Kuppusamy with whom I had an exchange about the situation of deaf people in India general. I became very interested in his so hard, tiresome and yet successful work at his school in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, in spite of all the struggles he is facing in the oppressive environment. Such works need to be applauded and shared with the deaf community in India itself but also to the world deaf community. Due to my former experiences in South Africa and meetings with many deaf people from the so called developing countries I have started to rais e an awareness of the struggles of deaf people living in such regions. I "know" how they struggle every day in an environment that is oppressed by the hearing society - a lot more than it is common in the so called developed countries. So, I wanted to visit that school he was even leading as a deaf person and to see the dynamic and successful work of Murali and his staff to educate the young deaf adults. At the same time I was willing due Murali Kuppusamys request to give the deaf people in India all my supports to make a first step in waking up the Indian Deaf Community from the "Sleeping Beauty" and share with them my knowledge too. But at the same time learn from them too.
In conclusion, I would like again to point out that my report is mainly focused on a collective sharing of my experiences and views of my visit at more than 20 deaf schools and at 5 Deaf Associations in South India over a period of about less than a month. Besides, I want to point out clearly that it is not my intention to "tell" the Indian Deaf Community and the hearing people who are involved with the Deaf Community what to do. The report is to be understood as a sharing of my observations as a Non-Indian citizen I have made during this visit in this short time frame. And yet the reader may be surprised that many of the problems listed in the report exist all over the world, even in my native country !
It is time for all deaf people to stand up and to lead their lives. It is time for hearing people to listen to the deaf people and to treat them equally as fully members of both in the native and the world society.
It would be highly appreciated if readers were willing to give me a feedback on my report and views of the situation of deaf people in India.
Aya K. Kremp
In the last few years, significant changes have been made to improve the life of deaf people around the world. The United Nations is supporting more and more the human rights of deaf people and works closely with the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD). In 1993 the UN General Assembly adopted the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. It states the status of sign language and services provided in sign language:
According to the WFD, Rule 6 in this mentioned Standard Rules is to be understood as following:
"... sign language should be the language of instruction for Deaf children... and schools for the Deaf children should employ Deaf teachers...."
Another important step has been undertaken to improve the life of Deaf people by the World Conference on Special Needs Education: Access and Quality, held in Salamanca, Spain, in 1994 that was organized by UNESCO. The output of that conference was the so called "Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education", and it is now an official document of UNESCO. According to the WFD, the following item 21 is very important to know:
"Educational policies should take full account of individual differences and situations. The importance of sign language as the medium of communication among the deaf, for example, should be recognized and provision made to ensure that all deaf persons have access to education in their national sign language".
By looking at these statements - as well in the Standard Rules and in the Salamanca Statement - someone may think that these are powerful and wonderful words to be easily adopted by each country on this earth in order to improve the more than 70 million lives of the Deaf people. You may think you just to surrender these rules to each responsible government and everything will be fine for the Deaf Community.
Unfortunately, the reality is very different as it is a common knowledge. How far do these statements apply to the deaf people, especially in India? Regarding to the school education being a deaf teacher myself, many questions had come to my mind before coming to India:
Is India able to provide good deaf schools as stated in the UN Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities? Are the levels of the deaf schools equally to the hearing schools? Do the deaf schools use the same curriculum like hearing schools? Is the Indian Sign Language allowed to be used at deaf schools? Is it a language of instruction to be used in classrooms? Are the deaf children taught in sign language as a language from the pre-school age on? Are they aware of their sign language having an own grammar? Or are deaf children taught in spoken language only or like both (Total Communication) without having the awareness of having an own language ? Are deaf children aware of having Deaf Culture and are taught in that, too ? Are hearing teachers treating the deaf children respectfully and equally? Are hearing teachers fluently in sign language or do they reject and oppress it? Are there deaf schools who educate deaf children bilingually? What is the philosophy of each deaf school - especially of the principal? Do the teachers and principals share the same philosophy in teaching deaf children?
Do the hearing teachers encourage the deaf children to go for higher education like hearing children (e.g. go to university)? What kind of teaching method is used in classrooms? Do deaf schools hire deaf teachers? Do the deaf teachers have the same education like hearing teachers? Do they get the same salary? Are they equally respected teachers among the hearing teachers? Do the deaf children respect the deaf teachers and use them as their role models? Do the deaf teachers sign and support sign language? Are the deaf teachers strong role models? How does the collaboration function between the hearing parents and the deaf schools and between the Deaf Association and the Deaf schools?
What kind of power do the parents have at schools ? What kind of influence do they have on the education in classroom especially by hearing teachers ? How do the hearing teachers support the hearing parents ? What kind of information is provided to them ?
Regarding the deaf community in India generally I had questions like these: How do the deaf people in general live in India? How is the relationship between them and the hearing society in general? How much does the hearing society know about the needs of the deaf people? And vice versa -how much does the deaf community educate the hearing people about the needs of deaf people? Is Sign Language recognized as an equal language to the spoken language by law? How many different sign languages do exist in India? How strong is the deaf community? Does it have many strong deaf leaders? How strong are the Deaf Associations around the states and cities ? Are they lead by deaf people? How about the National Deaf Association in New Delhi? What kind of services /programes do the Deaf Association provide for the Deaf Community ? What do they do in order to improve the life of deaf people in all ages? Are deaf people aware of having a Deaf Culture? Can deaf people marry each other? Can Deaf people drive a car by themselves ? Do Deaf people have professional sign language interpreters to be able to participate at events in the hearing community? Is such a training provided to educate professional sign language interpreters?
Many, many more questions had been buzzing in my mind before leaving for India that can't all be listed here. The questions as listed should not give the impression that I wanted to "research" the situation of deaf people in India and then give a "judge" over it. The questions should only give thoughts of the situation of deaf people in India in generally - not only for myself but hopefully also for every Indian reader especially those who work in the Deaf field. Anyway, being a deaf teacher I directed special attention on the statements as quoted from the Standard Rules and Salamanca Statement as above during my visit at deaf schools.
The following report is divided in two parts - the first part focuses on the observations and experiences during the visits at deaf schools - the second part on the workshops given by me at the Deaf Associations and meeting deaf adults there. In the report I am trying to give answers to the questions above as far as possible based on my observations and talks to the deaf people. It is a fact that deaf people all over in the world face more or less the same problems oppression by hearing people. Problems faced by deaf people in India will be addressed here but at the same time solutions will be suggested.
It was planned to visit about 40 deaf schools in South India from there about 20 deaf schools in Coimbatore itself where Murali Kuppusamy resides. When starting with our program in Coimbatore we quickly had to realize and to accept that it was impossible to go to all deaf schools. So, we often could pay attention only to one or two deaf schools each day. This experience remained for the rest of our travel to other deaf schools in South India. Reasons for not being able to attend all the schools as planned are diverse, like:
- Deaf schools are located far apart from each other even within the city itself.
- Often one hour or even more must be spent to reach one school from another school.
- Directions to the deaf schools were not always easy.
- More time was needed for the speech to the deaf children by Murali Kuppusamy.
- Time for questions and answers from the deaf children needed also to be given.
- Exchange meetings with teachers with me to talk about how to teach deaf children.
- Some deaf schools were very ambitious and presented their own program for us (children were performing a dance, theatre and similar activities).
- Exchange meetings with the principals in office of each school took place after the entire program at the school was finished.
- Some schools provided a snack or a lunch for us.
Nevertheless, paying attention to these "limited" number of deaf schools we entered (see school list at Murali Kuppusamy's report) were really paid worthwhile. So more concentration and time could be provided to these deaf schools.
In India to my understanding in general two different types of schools exist: private and government schools. This applies also for the deaf schools. We visited both kind of schools. It must be said that a big difference between both - private and government - schools exists.
We decided to pay more attention to the private schools than to the government schools. Reasons will be explained at another place. Before giving the impressions of visiting both kinds of schools, it must be emphasized that all deaf schools - no matter if private or government - gave us a hearty welcome. All principals, teachers and especially the deaf children were delighted about our workshops we provided to them. For the children it was a very special highlight to be able to come all together - for example - in a hall joining the speech of Murali Kuppusamy (see also his detailed report about his workshop for the deaf children). Since he is an Indian deaf man himself, he was able to give to the deaf children a wonderful role model to look up. He was sharing his experiences with them about his life and being a young child at a deaf school. He tried to make clear to the deaf children how important education is for them to be able to lead a good life after school leaving and that deaf children can achieve the same like hearing children. During his speech he also showed examples of learning techniques how to study better for classes and how important it is to work hard for classes too to be able to keep up the same level like hearing schools. Another point was that deaf people should not "copy" the choices of occupations among themselves and gain all the same occupations later on after school leaving. Many deaf children choose the occupations like working as a tailor or in a bank and similar jobs.
It was emphasized how important it is that each child must learn to look to himself and think about its own personality, skills and knowledge. Knowing itself better what it can do and what kind of "tools" it has to be able to master leading his own personal life later on, each deaf school child will be able to take over a successful and a responsible life. At the conclusion of his educational speech Shri. Murali Kuppusamy pointed out that deaf children very well can acquisit higher education at universities and get diplomas up to BED and even PhD, too. And yet it is each deaf child's responsibility to make something out of its life.
In connection to his speech, I then myself was signing to the deaf children after a short introduction about my life. I gave supportive remarks about the educational speech of Shri. Murali Kuppusamy how important education is - especially for deaf children. I tried to make them understand that deaf and hearing people must be treated equally and that deaf children must have a much more positive and strong self-esteem to be able to challenge themselves in the hearing world after. I also appealed to them to go for higher education to become for example deaf teachers, deaf doctors, deaf lawyers, deaf actors etc. The Indian Deaf Communtiy does not provide such deaf professional people yet like several other countries in the world already do. I also pointed out clearly that deaf people very well can and must occupy such high positions in the working world, too. If this will not happen, the Indian Deaf Community for sure will be lost and will remain low while all other Deaf Communities in the world will grow more and more with professional educated deaf adults. At the end of our programfor the children, there was the possibility for the deaf children to raise questions to Murali Kuppusamy. After hesitating some time the children bombed him with so many questions. With lots of patience all the questions were tried to be responded to the satisfaction of the deaf children.
To summarize I believe it was very enjoyable for the children to attend our educational program. They all paid great attention to what Murali Kuppusamy was signing. It is to be assumed that all the deaf children now were given food for thoughts to realize that education is the key for the success of life. Many children came towards Murali Kuppusamy and notified to him of thier intention to make changes and to focus more on education. It must be highly emphasized at this place that Murali Kuppusamy played a very important role to the deaf children as being a deaf Indian man himself with whom the deaf children at all deaf schools we visited could identify very strongly - no matter if the deaf school was rather oral or rather sign language supportive.
After finishing the program for the deaf children, a meeting with the teachers was organized. Here, in this frame I mainly was talking as a deaf teacher to the teachers and gave them a CD-presentation about my work in my native country. It was about the bilingual education in my class and the way how it was taught by the hearing and the deaf teacher in one classroom. Main goal of the Bilingual Education is to teach the deaf children two languages - spoken and sign languages - so that they learn early to separate both languages. With the presence both of a hearing and a deaf teacher, another goal is to provide the children role models of both worlds - hearing and deaf world. Especially with having a deaf teacher the children should be able to build up a strong identity and self-esteem as being deaf themselves so that they later can master their lives both in the deaf and in the hearing world. At the end of the presentation there were several questions from the teachers like how to teach both languages opposite as an example. So, I showed this way in a classroom in front of deaf children: A hearing teacher was standing right in front of the black board while I was standing on the left side. So, the teachers positions are seen clearly. Each teacher has a symbol hanging on the black board which signalized the teachers languages: the deaf teacher has the symbol of "hands" -> meaning: Sign Language/ the hearing teacher has the symbol of "mouth and hands"-> meaning Signed English Language.
After writing a sentence as an example: " I eat an apple" on the black board on the hearing teachers side, I asked the teacher to sign and to speak that sentence at the same time to the deaf children. Then, I asked the deaf children how to sign this in Sign Language and gave the answer, too. I tried to visualize that both languages have their own grammar and yet are equal like all other languages. An example is that the verb in both languages - the spoken and the sign languages - are placed differently within one sentence: example: spoken/written language: "I eat an apple". Sign Language: "I apple eat". At the same time I made clear that Sign Language can not be written down but can be visualized by sign pictures hanging on the black board. Through that way, deaf children can see both language visualized, compare them and raise awareness about them. This way helps them to acquisit good writing skills with having the awareness of grammar written rules. It can be said like "Code Switching" between both languages.
The hearing teachers then gave me more sentences to show how to teach these opposite to the deaf children. When mentioning the importance of using Sign Language for the development of reading skills, a hearing teacher at an oral school stated this would not be true and that the deaf child would be confused when using both languages. Her opinion was that spoken language would help the deaf child to gain reading skills since both grammars are the same.
She then asked a deaf child to volunteer to read an extract of a text in the working book. That child for sure seemed to be skilled in spoken language. By inviting that child to explain the meaning of what it had read, it was not able to do. This situation gave a food of thought to that teacher and others why the child had failed. I then explained the meaning of this extract through sign language, pantomime and gestures to make it understandable to that child and the others. Their faces were smiling. The teachers then somehow started to realize that when using Sign Language it would help the deaf child to understand texts.
These situation as described came typically from the oral schools whose teachers in generally fear using the Sign Language because of simply having poor knowledge of Sign Language etc. Those teachers wanted to find something to proof the impossibility of teaching both languages but failed. Teachers at the schools which support Sign Language as classroom instruction language were very interested and open minded in the way how hearing and deaf teacher can work together as a team and teach both languages.
To summarize both workshops - for the deaf children and teachers - as shown turned out to be very fruitful and beneficial for both groups. The deaf children enjoyed very much their educational program by Shri Murali Kuppusamy and as well by me. The teachers were fed with a food of thought children and their eyes were opened about another way of education deaf children. The discussions with them were all very instructional and enjoyable.
Here, I would like to take the opportunity to inform about another incident that has happened during our presence in a deaf private school. After Shri. Murali Kuppusamy and I had finished with our educational program to the deaf children, we opened as usual the possibility to raise questions by the children. During the discussion with these deaf children, some of them were outspoken and complained for not being allowed to use sign language in classroom. Those students reported us that if they are caught by using sign language by the teachers, that 5 Rupees have to be paid every time to the teacher.
This fact is very shocking as it was the first time during our tour to "hear" something like that. We informed the children that this is very very wrong to be punished in such a way by using the sign language. It is like an abuse for not using the sign language by paying money to the teachers. We talked to the teachers and also to the principal about this matter that this has to stop immediately. When asking what the teachers would do with the money, no one responded of course.
In this place, it must be outspoken to the government of India - especially the Rehabilitation of Council in New Delhi which to my understanding is responsible for Deaf Education on national level -that this issue is clearly a violation of the UN Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. I suggest the government in India to follow up with this issue straight with the Leonard School for the Hearing Impaired in Madurai in order to ensure that this deaf school will not continue abusing the UN Standard Rules any more.
To compare the deaf schools run by the government we had the impression that private schools in general were really trying to take their task more serious to educate deaf children and get them prepared for the life after leaving school. No doubts, both kind of schools are different. The government schools are supported by the government while the private schools are mostly founded by different organizations like Rotary International Club. Also, children who visit private schools pay school fees while children at the government schools do not pay any fees. Those deaf children come rather from the poor families as explained by Murali Kuppusamy and by the principals themselves, too.
And yet it is a very important fact, that all children no matter from which family background they come from - rich or poor - have the right of getting a proper school education. This especially concerns the deaf children, too! To get a school education is each childs human right! Both schools - private and government - seem not to fulfill fully the deaf children's rights of gaining good school education equally to hearing children. And yet, it must be said here again that the private schools give efforts to teach deaf children. Those are also much better equipped with teaching materials etc. On the basis of my personal observations the situation of both school forms could be explained.
The second part of this report is focused on the workshops in general given by Shri. Murali Kuppusamy and by myself at five Deaf Associations in South India. Besides, I will try to give information about the life of the deaf people and the problems they face in the society in general. I will also give information I have selected and of which I personally think it is important to be outspoken here.
The workshops Murali Kuppusamy and I presented were all educational. Our goal was to give deaf people a chance to gain more knowledge about different topics mainly in the educational area. To give the workshops it was a challenge for me being a Non-Indian deaf person. But all my three speeches seemed to have been very informative and beneficial regarding to many feedbacks from the participants.
The topics of my speeches were "Bilingual Education", "Relay Service", and "Successful Deaf Women worldwide". I will not explain the content of each speech here again as this can be read in the report of Murali Kuppusamy but yet I would like to take the opportunity to select some remarks of each speech which I find important to be addressed here.
Regarding to the speech about "Bilingual Education" not only the method was shown how to teach the deaf children bilingually. Also a very short overview of the development of Deaf Education from the past to nowadays was shown. It is very important to know the date of 1880 that is linked with the Milan Congress in Italy where hearing participants made a decision - without deaf people - that had a great impact on all deaf schools and deaf lives worldwide. From this date on the Sign Language had been banned out of classrooms, so deaf teachers too. That means that before this date, there were deaf schools who had deaf teachers and where Sign Language was accepted in classrooms. The oppression of not being allowed to use the Sign Language by deaf people had begun from there on. So, the oralism/ audism took its victory to the deaf schools. And yet, if looking back it has failed all over the world.
Today, it is a delight to see that several changes have been done so far: the recognition of Sign Language as an equal language to the spoken language proofed by hearing (!) linguistics. In some countries its recognition is even protected by the law. Thanks to the linguistic research the use of the Sign Language is becoming "allowed" slowly at more and more deaf schools., and so hiring deaf techers, too. I found it very important to show this brief overview on this part of our Deaf History so that deaf people in India can understand their situation much better with having a look on the history until today. My impression was that Indian deaf people have no or poor knowledge of the Deaf History. My small overview on that part was truly an eye opening to them.
Anyway, what would have happened if the Milan Congress had supported Sign Language ? I believe that today all deaf people would be doing fine and would have an equal position next to hearing people in the society. But who knows ? So, we have a long path to go to reach this goal.
Another issue from this speech were the terms "deaf mute" and "deaf dumb". I knew before my departure that both terms are still used among the deaf people in India. That is why, I wanted to take the chance to explain the meanings of both terms. It is a fact, that "deaf mute" and "deaf dumb" are discriminating terms to label deaf people. By looking closely to these words, they mean like that deaf people cannot speak or that they are stupid. This is not true of course. Deaf people can speak and they are smart like hearing people are. Both terms were labeld by hearing people a long time ago as there was no knowledge about the Deaf Community in general. But as we have 2004 today, both labels need to be banned out of the vocabulary, so in India, too. I asked the deaf people not to continue these terms any more and suggested to use "Deaf" as it stands for Deaf Community, Sign Language, and Deaf Culture/Deaf History. This label "Deaf" has a positive impact for us. Anyway, it is the Deaf Community right to label itself and not to be labeled by the hearing people. Hearing people in general like to label us with different terms but never ask us for the "permission". This needs to stop. Giving this information was something touching and an awakening up to the deaf participants of the workshops.
After this, I explained what Deaf Culture means by showing a picture. Then, I challenged the participants to think about more situations that are related to Deaf Culture. This was very enjoyable. This was another awakening up. My other speech on "Relay Service" was about a service allowing deaf people to make phone calls by themselves without being depended on hearing people. This is something I am working on to set up in my country. India will need to start on that, too, one day.
The last speech was about "Successful Deaf Women worldwide". Selected deaf women were presented for being a lawyer, actor, filmmaker, chemist, and MP etc. It was my intention to show these women with having a "dark" skin color as they are either African or Americans with an African heritage. I wanted to show that no matter of the skin color, deaf women in India can become successful. To be able to reach this goal, I suggested different qualifications that deaf women should have like having a strong will, being positive, having a strong self-esteem etc. For many deaf women it was something very touching, an eye-opening, too, as they told me. They felt like to have a "re-birth" and want to follow the footsteps of these few deaf women I presented.
To summarize the workshops, I have the impression that all deaf people enjoyed the programs. At the end of the workshops, many participants bombed us with questions. For me, I am very pleased that my speeches were beneficial for the deaf people and that they somehow hit their nerves to wake up from their long "Beauty Sleeping" and to realize that it is time to stand up and work on the improvement their lives. They no longer can not be passive and must become a lot more active and responsible.
Now, I would like to summarize the information of deaf peoples lives from the talks with so many deaf people I met. I just will count the problems the deaf people in general face in the Indian society with the hope to be able to raise a better awareness and understanding of the needs of deaf people in India especially for the hearing reader:
1) Deaf people are not allowed to gain a driving license and drive a car by themselves
->This is a clear discrimination. Deaf people can drive a car. It is said that driving a car 80% of the eyes and 20% of the ears are used. With other words, driving a car is not automatically depended on "hearing" like many hearing people claim.
2) Deaf people in general do not have or have a poor knowledge about the awareness of Sign Language as a fully recognized language with its own grammar.
-> If a deaf teacher wants to teach Sign Language at schools, he must be aware of the structure of Sign Language and its grammar rules. While I was pointing out this during my speech about Bilingual Education, deaf people had no idea about Sign Language having an own grammar which is different from the spoken language.
3) Deaf people in general do not have/or have a poor knowledge about having a Deaf Culture and Deaf History.
-> To my surprise, it is the fact for many deaf people that I gave this information to them for the first time they ever have "heard".
4) Literacy about lives of Indian deaf people
-> There are hardly books/ videos available about life stories of Indian deaf people in the past and nowadays, for example. The same concerns for the children books/videos with Indian Sign Languages.
5) The TV does not provide Closed Captions.
-> It is the right of deaf people to have closed captions on all films on TV to be able to understand what being said there.
6) The "All India Federation Deaf Association" located in New Delhi is run by a hearing president. The same concerns to the Deaf Associations on state level - to my understanding.
-> This is something that needs to be change very soon. Deaf Associations - no matter if on city, state or national level - must be occupied by deaf people only. Only deaf people can represent themselves and their needs to the hearing society. If the Indian Deaf Community wants to improve their life, then it is due time to take the responsibility and lead the Deaf Associations by themselves and not by hearing people who cannot control us.
These are just some selected remarks I wanted them to be outspoken here. In fact, the list could be continued. Most important is to take the step now to work on the goal to make sure that deaf people can function equally to hearing people in the society. It is a long way to go but it is worth. So many little steps can already be taken now like:
- Organizing Sign Language courses for hearing people (teachers, parents etc.).
- providing a training course for deaf people how to teach Sign Language effectively.
Writing small books about stories of deaf people in the past and nowadays (interviewing old people about their lives etc.).
- Creating pictures about Deaf Culture by deaf artists to raise the awareness about Deaf Culture but also about Deaf Art, too.Organizing more Leadership trainings for deaf people to be able to take responsibilities in leading more effectively the Deaf Associations.
- Spreading out the Sign Language dictionary to give it access to more hearing people.
- Spreading out information brochures about the needs of deaf people and its Sign Language, etc.
- Giving workshops for parents about Deaf Culture, etc., to give them a better understanding of their little deaf child.
- Letting deaf people allow to drive a car.
At this place, I would like to invite the reade to join me to applause those deaf people who have the courage to run own business in spite of the environment they live. Those own a hotel, saree shops, deaf school, business for selling technical devics for the deaf etc. These business should be more supported by the hearing community but also by the deaf community.
To end the report I would like to ask every single reader to support the vision of WFD to assure full equality and quality of life for all Deaf people by 2020. We have over 70 million Deaf people in the world of whom 80% still have no or little education. There is still a lot to work - so in India, too - to let the vision of WFD come true in 2020.
At last, a special thank goes to Shri. Murali Kuppusamy who had organized the wonderful tour to deaf schools in South India. I for sure have learned a lot about the way of deaf peoples lives which is combined within the general Indian Culture. It was a big opening to my horizontal knowledge.
A special thank also goes to the Deaf Associations for all their wonderful and tiresome work to make all the workshops run so well. I am also very grateful to all the deaf people sharing with me about their lives and the obstacles they face daily.
Wishing all the best for India to be able to build up a strong positive Deaf Community that will stand on the same line like the more advanced countries one day. I know for sure that this will happen sooner or later! Deaf people in India have so much potential to use for reaching this goal.
Finally, I would like the reader to keep in mind again, that this report was written by a Non-Indian person and that her intention is not to "tell" Indian deaf and hearing people what to do. The responsibility to improve the deaf lives lay on the shoulders of Indian deaf people themselves.
Thank you for your patience to read this report and your support to the deaf community in India.
- Level of teaching is low.
- No knowledge of Sign Language as a language with its own grammar.
- Using the oral method.
- No knowledge about Deaf Culture and Deaf History.
- Poor efforts to teach deaf children equally to hearing children.
- Poor efforts to challenge the deaf students to gain Higher Education and get like BED degree.
- Poor trust into the abilities of each deaf child.
- Still labeling deaf children as "disabled" like deaf children"can't".
- Poor preparation for the life after leaving school.
- Poor knowledge about new ideas of teaching deaf children worldwide.
A big problem at all deaf schools is that the majority of teachers is hearing and do not have fluent skills in Sign Language and do have a poor trust in the abilities of each child that each deaf child can achieve the same like a hearing child. Another problem is the lack of knowledge of Deaf Culture. As long as hearing people are the majority at deaf schools with having poor awareness about Sign Language and Deaf Culture, deaf schools will continue to fail in educating deaf children equally to hearing children. It is each deaf child's Human Right to get a proper education like it is stated in the UN Standard Rules.
How can this huge amount of problems be solved ? Therefore, I would like to make at first some few suggestions:
- Teachers must work on themselves to be able to trust that each deaf child can make the same achievement as hearing children.
- Using the same curriculum as hearing children.
- More activities in classroom to let the children experiment and solve problem by themselves.
- Support to give them a good opinion and critic skill.
- Being open minded for new ideas that are discussed in the Deaf Education fields like Bilingual Education and have a look also for new developments in other countries.
- Organizing Sign Language courses.
- Using Sign Language from pre-school to High School level.
- Organizing workshops leaded by Deaf adults to learn about their way of life and about their own school experiences in order to avoid to have the same problems.
- Inviting Deaf adults with Sign Language skills to the deaf schools to teach Sign Language to the deaf children and to read stories from children books to them etc.
The list of suggestions for solving the problems could be continued but hopefully that these are a start to think about all the problems and how to solve them step by step.
There are still some more issues I would like to address: To my impression deaf schools that are located within one city do not collaborate together.
I find this sad because such a collaboration and exchange would help all to develop better schools for deaf children. It is highly recommended that, for example, principals and teachers get together like every two months to share their experiences working with the deaf children and, thus, work more closely together. At the same time such a collaboration would also be a big benefit to the deaf children to get together with other deaf children from other deaf schools in the same city.
Another issue is that those deaf schools who support Sign Language use different Sign Languages: there are deaf schools (Bangalore and Ooty, Tamil Nadu) who sign in ASL (American Sign Language), other use ISL (Indian Sign Language) and other again in Tamil Language. I was especially somehow irritated that these deaf schools in Bangalore and as well in Ooty use ASL but this is the American Sign Language. I rather would have chosen ISL - the Indian Sign Language to keep the native own Sign Language. I think, ASL can be learned as a first foreign Sign Language to be able to communicate with deaf people on an international level. The Rehabilitation Council in New Delhi along with deaf people like Murali Kuppusamy may want to have a closer look on it and start to discuss which Sign Language should be used. I would have preferred the Indian Sign Language. This matter will be left for the Indian Deaf Community to discuss and decide - maybe along with the support of the Sign Language Resource Center in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.
My last issue is to talk about hiring deaf teachers. It is a hearty delight for me - being a deaf teacher by myself - to know that there are several deaf schools having deaf teachers. I admire and applause that. But having a close eye on them, most of these deaf teachers do not have a formal education for becoming a professional teacher. They just teach like Sports, Sewing and such classes. And yet, it is a great start with having them at the deaf schools. They must be strongly encouraged and supported by the hearing staff that they should play a bigger role at the schools since they are deaf themselves. The teaching staff should strengthen their potential to go on to be a more positive role model to the deaf children. A good start would be like to allow them to teach Sign Language to the deaf children - especially at the pre-school age. They also can stand as counselor to the deaf children to encourage them to go for Higher Education as they missed it untill now. Those deaf children being taught by these deaf teachers will be the deaf people of the future Indian Deaf Community as they will for sure be able to develop a much stronger positive personality and self-esteem so that they go for Higher Education. They then will return to the deaf schools as professional deaf teachers.
This is something to think about. At last, here it must be loudly announced throughout the world that the Indian Deaf Community provides the first professional deaf teacher with the BED degree. Just at the end of our tour we found the first professional deaf teacher in Bangalore. It is Shri. M.N. Srinivas at the Sheila Kothavala Institute for the Deaf. What a hearty jumping - especially for me. The school he is working for must be highly supported to continue to educate deaf children equally to hearing children. These children are very lucky to have him as a role model to look up. The Rehabilitation Council may want to take the opportunity to work with him to improve the quality of teaching deaf children in the whole country India.
If India wants to make sure that life of deaf children must be improved, the first step to be done must be the improvement of the educational system at all deaf schools in the country. That means to follow the UN Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and the Salamanca Statement as shown at the beginning of this report. To be able to fulfill these Rules, working along with WFD (World Federation of the Deaf) will be for sure very supportive on this international level. Given the permission of using the Sign Language in classroom equally to the spoken language, regarding the education of deaf children, for sure, there will be considerable changes from the "low level" towards "high level". Here, it must be clarified that the Deaf Community never demanded to abandon spoken language out from the schools. What is demanded is to add Sign Language as an equal language next to the spoken language in classroom. That means both languages should be taught to deaf children. The Sign Language as a basic language, spoken language as far as it is possible for each deaf child to acquisit. This is one of the philosophies of Bilingual Education.
Hiring and accepting deaf teachers as equal colleagues among the hearing teachers at deaf schools also will have a big positive impact on teaching the deaf children in India. If this can let be happen, the Indian Deaf Community for sure will catch up the big gap between Europe and even the USA and will be able to lead a good quality life for all deaf people from young to old. Otherwise the deaf children in India will be lost among the 80 % of the worlds deaf people population according to the WFD.
India also should keep in mind that not only India is still farback behind with the proper education towards deaf people. Many other countries are in the same boat, even my country for some aspects, too. Very important is that the attitude of having a will for positive changes to give a better life for deaf people is filling the room. To make this true, the best way to teach deaf children is to teach them bilingually like many countries practice, for example, Russia, Japan, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, and several other European countries, USA, Canada, Australia, Columbia, Venezuela and others. The oppression of deaf children must definitely be stopped. Oralism/Audism has failed educating deaf children for sure, and this must be realized and accepted especially among the hearing teachers/ principals at deaf schools but also among the parents and family members of each deaf child.
Resource by Mrs. Aya Katharina Kremp
The students are kept explained about the level of deaf people at the international level. . They occupy the profession of doctors, lawyers, teachers, pilots, etc., among in the USA. There are examples for the deaf belonging to in other countries. Mrs. Aya Katharina Kremp herself is a proof as a successful teacher. Students are surprised to see a successful deaf woman before them, and astonished to know that the deaf can be successful in any field. Students are explained to read more books to improve their knowledge and not to stop with the school syllabus. The position of the deaf in India is much in the lower level comparing to other countries. The deaf should try hard to improve and develop their skills to reach standards set by other countries. The students are told to master one thing at a time to get planned success. In the pursuit of students there is no place for blackness and negligence can lead them to disappointments and sufferings. It is not only & personal loss but also below to our national growth. Students are asked to follow the teachings of Mr. K. Murali and be successful to get success.
Resource by Mrs. Aya Katharina Kremp
The teachers are explained about the successful deaf professionals in USA. A few years ago, Germany was staying behind in the status of the deaf. But a first change in teaching method to the deaf students has made gradual transformations in a class at a deaf school in Germany. Because of this successful result after 10 years, now some classes at other deaf schools want to follow. This has happened with one class at the deaf school where Ms Aya Kremp is working.
A CD 'Bilingual Education for the Deaf' showed how the deaf can be taught in a different method to understand the language in use among the deaf and the language among the hearing. Teaching by two teachers - one Hearing and another Deaf, in a classroom will be an effective way of teaching. The main problem is to have a professional deaf teacher with BED degree. The government of India should enunciate plans to support professional deaf teachers. The life of the deaf students is very important. They should be taught effectively. So the Government should consider this a sheet and plan to do the needful. Teachers exclaimed that teaching the deaf students grammatically is very difficult because the deaf cannot understand it. Mrs. Aya explained in detail how it is made possible by explaining to the students in sign language and also in writing.
Teachers asked about Mrs. Aya's personal experience in her education. She replied them that initially she was put up in a Hearing school, where she finds it very hard to understand and learn. She felt very weak. After 10 years of her life in Hearing school, she was put up in a deaf school where she met deaf people for the first time. From these deaf people she learned Sign Language which she finds herself strong later.
Gradually, she finished her higher education at the university and did B.Ed, thus qualified herself as a teacher. Teachers felt the hardness experienced by her during studies and realized the power of Sign Language. Teachers are happy to have Ms.Aya at India and assured her to support the deaf students in all the ways in their field of education.
Hope you aware that Deaf Empowerment activities For Literacy Education Accessible Development Empowerment Rehabilitation & Sports of Deaf Leaders is registered trust and a NGO initiated in March 2003 by our Team a with the focused objective of contributing to the betterment and understanding of DEAF people in India.
We need your help !
K. Murali, Director, Deaf Leaders,
59, VOC Nagar, Arun Nagar Extentsion, Thadagam Road , Coimbatore - 641025.
98940 58898 (No voice)