Kenyan Sign Language -KSL is the natural, native and indigenous language of the Deaf people of Kenya who are a language minority and a marginalized population. The Constitution of Kenya recognizes this language under articles 7, 3 (b) and (c) and article 120 as ratified in the UN convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Language acquisition and development starts at the home and is further reinforced in early grades with strong language models such as parents, teachers and adults around the child. This is often not the case for Deaf children in many Kenyan homes. Their parents do not know Kenyan Sign Language, their teachers barely use KSL and are exposed to language role models at age 7 or 10 where they have to survive in boarding schools far from home and experiencing full deaf culture immersion for the first time in their lives. English a foreign spoken language is then drilled into these children without proper instruction or materials. Their hearing counterparts on the other hand have been hearing, speaking, singing and mimicking English, kiswahili and mother tongue rhythms, words, phrases, poems and songs for 3-5 years.
SEE is not new in Kenya. It has been piloted in Machakos school for the Deaf, Kenya Institute of Special Education has over the years insisted on its usage however outcomes of the Deaf learners has been dwindling. Early grade literacy and numeracy issues have been comprehensively documented for various schools and regions on the Tusome Reports, several other players have documented the decline not just for Deaf learners but for early graders generally. Why should we force a failing system to be perpetuated for a section of learners? The proponents of SEE removed kiswahili from the curriculum for the Deaf learners not because the pupils could not learn it but due to the teachers inability to master KSL in order to instruct on kiswahili grammar, use and reading. The issue at the table should be how do teachers teach reading, writing English to a deaf pupil?
On the issues around literacy - Lack of proper foundation for Deaf children ages 0 - 7 years. The current low literacy and cognitive skills in the Deaf children is due to minimal of total lack of opportunities to develop their language, communication skills early like their speaking counterparts. There is need to invest in proper Deaf oriented early childhood education incorporating the Deaf child, the parents and teacher. The opportunity to develop a strong language base and foundation sets up the deaf child for success. This would be achieved by having the school environment filled with adult Deaf language mentors, peer - peer language transfer, Deaf teacher reinforcement and parents able to use sign language once the child goes back home.This partnership presents a huge opportunity for programmers to create projects targeting parents, teachers especially Deaf and for ECD at the county level and ECD establishments.
We need to check the motives of SEE supporters for instance why are they using their privilege to muzzle the Deaf community? This energy should be used in fighting for the rights of the deaf girls being impregnated by teachers, deaf students being denied accessibility at Kenyatta University etc why for instance is the Hon DrGertrude Musuruve Inimah using her position to distribute books she has authored? Are the books approved by KICD? If they are why are they not being distributed by the channels already established or is she pushing legislation to popularize her books? Is this a conflict of interest? What does article 6 state about public officers?
Still on our Hon. Senator she invited several Persons with Disabilities for lunch at parliament cafeteria - a good gesture however it reinforces her view and model on perspectives on disability - she lie many before her view the disability fraternity as a group of people needing benevolence - a lunch date should quale the noises.....Handouts are short lived, we need the persons with disability at the table, with a voice and chance to express their aspirations, their dreams and how they want to be governed not given a plate of food (for some instances it is worth noting that a plate of food might go along way to alleviate hunger, 1000 shillings transport too can save one the trip on a matatu a couple of days BUT it should not be the remedy to silence voices opposing a situation liKe we are facing with the Deaf in Kenya today).
Use of correct terminologies when referring to various groups of Persons with Disabilities - The UNCRPD clearly states the Deaf, deaf and deaf blind why do our elected officials refer to the Deaf as hearing impaired, deaf and mute, deaf and dumb, mute etc? there needs to be consistency of terminology and respect for the person and not perpetuate retrogressive stereotypes and stigma disability already brings to the human person. It is Deaf. The Deaf. not any other labels.
Our progressive constitution states clearly that the state shall promote the development and use of KSL we can not have our elected representatives opposing and going contrary to the constitution they swore to defend and uphold.