Monday, 15 October 2012

Deaf Kenyans - Rewriting the history of the Deaf in Kenya Series I

Little information exists about the Kenyan Deaf community prior to 1960. It is however known that in 1958 concerned hearing Kenyans established the Kenya Society for Deaf Children (KSDC). In the late 1960s’ and early 70s’ Deaf people from Nyangoma and Mumias who were believed to be first generation of educated Deaf people in the Deaf schools came to Nairobi to look for jobs and better life.

This is justified when Alan Lane, Robert Hoffmeister, and Ben Bahan paid visit to Kenya and had to say this on Kenya deaf community in their book. In addition, graduates of the schools have been mingling for some three – four decades now in cities such as Nairobi, where there are reportedly several hundred Deaf adults. The numbers of deaf people are known to be large in Nairobi and while in Nairobi, they went to Kenya Society for the Deaf Children (KSDC) for social services, since there was no national association of the deaf to cater for their rights that time. KSDC was the only organization for the Deaf though it’s aim was to focus on improving education of deaf children by establishing schools and looking for donors to sponsor needy Deaf children, in addition to that KSDC was also offering in-services-training program for the teachers for the deaf, but not to advocate and serve the deaf adults who by then were facing serious discrimination at employments and other institutions due to their deafness.

Since then several organizations have sprung up offering a myriad of services and opportunities to the growing Deaf population in Kenya. Central to this was the formation of Kenya National Association of the Deaf (KNAD) a national non-governmental organization was formed and managed by Deaf people in 1986 and registered in 1987 under the Societies Act; KNAD is an ordinary member of the World Federation of the Deaf. Ann Oginga (the former KSDC director) flew to Sweden and met with the Swedish Federation of the Deaf (SDR) regarding Kenyan issues and brought to the SDR’s attention to the current plight of Deaf adults in their post-primary life. She then enlisted SDR’s assistance into investigating the new social crisis of the Deaf in Kenya. Uldis Ozolins from SDR came to Kenya and met Solomon Kayia through the Association of Nairobi Deaf Sports. Some Deaf people attend athletic tournaments to play, of course, but they and many more are there for another reason: to be with other members of the DEAFWORLD (frequently impossible during the work day) and to see old friends who have become separated after graduation or marriage or a move to a new job. 

Deaf people were more interested in sporting activities as that was the only social events that was available apart from deaf clubs. So it made it easier to reach deaf community. With Solomon’s assistance, Uldis discovered more information about the Deaf in Kenya. Solomon led Uldis on a fact finding mission to deaf schools in Kenya. Armed with the information, Uldis returned to Sweden and met with the board of SDR showed the board his experiences and information he got from Kenya about Kenya Deaf Community. The board in turn met with KSDC on the findings and resolutions. KSDC agreed to serve as a bridge between Sweden Deaf and Kenya Deaf regarding communication. In these meetings and events there were hearing individuals friends of the Deaf, family members, social workers etc who learnt Kenyan Sign Language and aided the Deaf in their communications with the rest of the world.

Today?? Join us in Series II looking at today

Kenyan Sign Language - Beyond Constitutional Recognition Part I

The case for official recognition of KSL
There are no official figures for the number of KSL users in the Kenya, although it is estimated that there are between 600,000 and 800,000 people whose first and preferred language is KSL. There are as many Deaf KSL-users as there are speakers of some indigenous languages, and more people (Deaf and hearing) use KSL than either Swahili according to Ethnologue Report. Linguists have established that KSL is a language in its own right and is as complex and sophisticated as any spoken language.

Like all linguistic minorities, members of the Deaf community have different degrees of access to the majority language of the wider community. Since KSL is more accessible to many Deaf people than spoken languages such as English, official recognition of KSL is especially important. BSL is the foundation for the self-esteem, educational achievement and social well being of the Kenya's Deaf community. However, that community exists within a wider society of hearing people. Consequently, Deaf people who use KSL experience high levels of social exclusion, particularly in the following areas:

Access to information and services
Deaf people face many barriers when using public and private services. This is frequently due to a lack of awareness of the needs of Deaf people on the part of service providers, and insufficient communication support. Deaf people with visual impairments (for example those with Usher syndrome) or other disabilities are especially disadvantaged.

Because English is often their second language, Deaf KSL users do not always have full access to written information. Service providers therefore need to use interpreters wherever necessary and to make information available in KSL formats, for instance on video or CD-ROM.
Kenya Sign Language Interpreters Association (KSLIA) was set up by a group of 20 local interpreters after training by the first Deaf Education US Peace Corps Volunteers in September 2000. Prior to this training there were several short term trainings conducted by KSLRP/KNAD dating back to 1980s and 1990s.

KSLIA is an indigenous initiative evolving and strengthening the face of the Interpreting profession in Kenya. KSLIA hopes to improve and elevate the standards of Interpreting in Kenya through the following objectives:

  1. 1.       To secure official recognition by the Government of S.L Interpreters profession
  2. 2.       Encourage and promote initiatives in improving the standards of SL interpreting and interpreter training and pay scale of interpreters depending with their level and skills of interpretation through certification.
  3. 3.       Cooperation with other recognized bodies concerned in the welfare of the deaf and in provision of S.L Interpreters throughout the world.
  4. 4.       Awareness creation on Deafness and SL. Interpreters through publication of information materials
  5. 5.       To collect and raise funds for the achievement of goals and objectives through membership fee, subscription, contribution, gifts or donations, commissions and payments, fund raising whether in money or otherwise from both members and non members.
  6. 6.       To maintain and administer a registry of S.L Interpreters in Kenya, enforce a code of ethics and mediate conflict between the Interpreters and their clients.

KSLIA is working towards the establishment of a training program and a certification process for its membership. [KSLIA] envisions its role in a three pronged approach - the three C's - Certification of members, Continuing education for the practicing Interpreters and Conflict resolution through enforcement of the Code of Ethics. Between 2006 - 2009 Global Deaf Connection, Deaf Aid, and KSLIA have jointly organized a series of trainings aimed at developing a process to provide training, certification and continued professional development for Kenyan Interpreters.

A KSL/spoken language interpreter provides a vital link between Deaf and hearing people. However, there is currently a serious shortage. As of year 2000 there were only 50 practicing interpreters and 100 trainee interpreters registered by the Kenyan Sign Language Interpreters Association – KSLIA and the Kenyan Sign Language Research Project – KSLRP.

The Persons with Disabilities Act 2003 requires businesses and service-providers to make their services accessible to Deaf people. However due to lack of gazette notification of these laws into policy has greatly contributed to the marginalization of the Deaf community in Kenya. The growth of demand for interpreters has not been matched by increased supply. This is a major obstacle to Deaf people's social inclusion.

In education, the use and teaching of KSL within a bilingual (KSL/English) learning environment is essential for some deaf children and adults. The early acquisition of language is vital to the learning process and for some deaf children KSL will be more accessible than spoken languages.

The Framework of Action accompanying UNESCO's Salamanca Statement on Special Needs Education, to which Britain is a signatory, states that:

The importance of sign language as the medium of communication among the deaf...should be recognized and provision made to ensure that all deaf persons have access to education in their national sign language. Framework for Action (1994), para 21

The United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 1993, similarly state that:

Consideration should be given to the use of sign language in the education of the deaf children, in their families and communities. Sign language interpretation services should also be provided to facilitate the communication between deaf persons and others. Rule 5, Accessibility
However, in Kenya, educational provision for deaf children varies greatly between education authorities, with some not offering bilingual programs and very few schools or resource bases for deaf children offering any formal teaching of KSL. A lack of access to KSL learning can adversely affect the language development of some deaf children and so impede their subsequent learning.

Parents of deaf children also receive greatly varying amounts of information and training in KSL, depending on the area they live in. However, this level of support remains the exception rather than the rule. Many parents are denied the choice of a bilingual method of education for their deaf children. Most schools in Kenya have for years insisted on the oral and or total communication mode of instruction.

Teaching and learning KSL
Demand for KSL courses has increased dramatically in the last decade. More and more people are learning the language - more than 2000 people took basic level course in KSL since 1998. However, there is a major shortage of trained and qualified KSL tutors and assessors. There is a KSL dictionary, interactive self teaching CD, the Kenya National Examinations Council, Kenya Institute of Special/Education – KIE/KISE have in last couple of years been developing curriculum and examination materials for KSL which are set to be used beginning 2010.
The legal status of KSL
Article 7
(b) promote the development and use of indigenous languages, Kenyan Sign languageBraille and other communication formats and technologies accessible to persons with disabilities.

Article 27
(4) The State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth.

Article 44
(1) Every person has the right to use the language, and to participate in the cultural life, of the person’s choice.
(2) A person belonging to a cultural or linguistic community has the right, with other members of that community--
(a) to enjoy the person’s culture and use the person’s language; or
(b) to form, join and maintain cultural and linguistic associations and other organs of civil society.

Article 49
(1) An arrested person has the right--
(a) to be informed promptly, in language that the person understands, of--
(i) the reason for the arrest;
(ii) the right to remain silent; and
(iii) the consequences of not remaining silent.
(c) to communicate with an advocate, and other persons whose assistance is necessary;

Article 50
(2) Every accused person has the right to a fair trial, which includes the right--
(m) to have the assistance of an interpreter without payment if the accused person cannot understand the language used at the trial.
(3) If this Article requires information to be given to a person, the information shall be given in language that the person understands.
(7) In the interest of justice, a court may allow an intermediary to assist a complainant or an accused person to communicate with the court.

Article 54
(1) A person with any disability is entitled--
(a) to be treated with dignity and respect and to be addressed and referred to in a manner that is not demeaning;
(b) to access educational institutions and facilities for persons with disabilities that are integrated into society to the extent compatible with the interests of the person;
(c) to reasonable access to all places, public transport and information;
(d) to use Sign language, Braille or other appropriate means of communication; and
(e) to access materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the person’s disability.
(2) The State shall ensure the progressive implementation of the principle that at least five percent of the members of the public in elective and appointive bodies are persons with disabilities.

Article 56
The State shall put in place affirmative action programs designed to ensure that minorities and marginalized groups--
(d) develop their cultural values, languages and practices

Article 120
(1) The official languages of Parliament shall be Kiswahili, English and Kenyan Sign language, and the business of Parliament may be conducted in English, Kiswahili and Kenyan Sign language.
(2) In case of a conflict between different language versions of an Act of Parliament, the version signed by the President shall prevail.

Article 259
(2) If there is a conflict between different language versions of this Constitution, the English language version prevails.

Quoting Professor Okoth Okombo of the University of Nairobi linguistics department the Deaf in Kenya are ‘a special linguistic minority….special because (the approximately 700-800,000 Deaf Kenyans) by nature of their disability cannot operate effectively in any of the spoken majority languages (English and Kiswahili)’.  This predicament brings us to the whys of the clamor for recognition of the language and thereby ‘legalization’ and use of KSL. One of the main pillars of language rights is the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration (of human rights) without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The freedom for private individuals to use a minority language in private correspondence or communications, including in private business or commercial correspondence, by telephone, electronic means; to have private displays such as outdoor commercial signs and posters, commercial signs, etc. of a private nature; the freedom to print in a minority language; the freedom to use a minority language in the conduct of private business and economic activities; even the right to create and operate private schools teaching in a minority language are all language rights. But their very nature is anchored, they originate, from existing human rights. (Varennes 2001: 5)

Failure to guarantee such uses of language amounts to a breach of an individual’s language rights. At another level, language rights can be explained by distinguishing language use in public. This includes the use of a language that an individual understands well both in court proceedings and court documents as universally recognised in international law as a basic “linguistic” right based on a fundamental human right (Varennes 2001: 6). The language uses at this level are also understood to include uses by public authorities: … such as public education using a minority language as a medium of instruction, public radio and television broadcasting in a minority language, use of minority language by public officials in the provision of services to the public (and therefore a major source of employment for individuals within the civil service) etc. (Varennes 2001: 6)

As Okombo (2001: 14–17) argues, the best languages for passing on information in Africa include not only the official and national languages but also the various indigenous languages, braille for the blind and sign language for the Deaf. The braille and sign language users are considered a disadvantaged minority whose language rights must be catered for. Okombo argues that it is not enough to use sign language in Kenya; rather, a local variety of the sign language, namely, Kenyan sign language is the most ideal language to use.

In addition, to the best of my knowledge, only the Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) and Kenyatta University have programmes training teachers for the handicapped. It is noted that members of the deaf community join school having learnt Kenyan sign language at home (Adoyo 2002). But at school they are subjected to either American sign English or sign exact English. The sequel of this practice is that the Deaf do not learn much. As if that is not enough, their blind counterparts have no reference materials published in braille. Thus blind people depend on the goodwill of their seeing colleagues to read for them. In this scenario, how sensitive are language planners to the language and democratic rights of the handicapped?

 Kenya is now ripe for a Kenyan Sign Language Act to streamline the issues above. 

In part two we will discuss the hows and the whens......

Barriers to Effectively Educating the Deaf in Kenya

Barriers to Effectively Educating the Deaf in Kenya

Jack Owiti the hearing interpreter and fluent KSL signer.

Jack Owiti the hearing interpreter and fluent KSL signer.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Sights of Interpreting in Kenya

In my work as an interpreter here are some of my moments. 

 Here I was at KBC Channel 1 Interpreting DAMKA a Swahili current affairs program. The topic was about Youth, Employment, Human Rights, Economic Empowerment etc

At the opening of the WFD - YS speeches are sometimes my favorite assignments especially if you have interacted with the speaker for a while it is easy to capture the spirit of their talk with ease.

TV Interviews are challenging if the reporter does not understand the dynamics of the Sign Language Interpreter (Voice to Sign and Sign to Voice) all in a split second.

 Government officials read word for word speeches from their superiors, it is protocol however it is very mechanical for the interpreter and can be a real challenge due to the fact that you never get to read the speech before hand. It is always shock and awe working on your feet.

Capacity building for young interpreters in always my joy and pleasure. Mentoring is a double edged sword for interpreters. The joy of seeing your protegee take on assignments is priceless.

The Three Princes of Serendip

by ‎Jack Owiti‎ on ‎‎Thursday, March 19, 2009‎ at ‎4:38pm‎ ·‎
"In ancient times there existed in the country of Serendippo, in the Far East, a great and powerful king by the name of Giaffer. He had three sons who were very dear to him. And being a good father and very concerned about their education, he decided that he had to leave them endowed not only with great power, but also with all kinds of virtues of which princes are particularly in need."

The father searches out the best possible tutors. "And to them he entrusted the training of his sons, with the understanding that the best they could do for him was to teach them in such a way that they could be immediately recognized as his very own."

When the tutors are pleased with the excellent progress that the three princes make in the arts and sciences they report it to the king. He however still doubts their training and summoning each in turn, declares that he will retire to the contemplative life leaving them as king. Each politely declines, affirming the father's superior wisdom and fitness to rule.

The king is pleased, but fearing that his sons' education may have been too sheltered and privileged, feigns anger at them for refusing the throne and sends them away from the land.

read more ..... 

What is the relationship between sex and politics? Any answers?

What is the relationship between sex and politics? Any answers?

by ‎Jack Owiti‎ on ‎‎Monday, May 4, 2009‎ at ‎4:10pm‎ 

- people can abstain from both

- involves both male and female
- everyone has an opinion on the style which is preferred... Read More
- there is always loyalty and betrayal
- causes an adrenaline rush every time you engage in it
- greatest source of joy, pain, hate, love, happiness
- short lived gratification if done for selfish gain
- source of income for a select few
- can be corrupted by a twisted mind - think of porn, dictatorship, prostitution, political patronage
- every man thrills at the chances of getting in, women always want to be on top
- deals are always done in darkness - bedroom, hotel room, late night meetings
- there is always a shroud of secrecy involved - no one tells the truth. (some) Men fake their prowess, (some) women fake orgasms, it is not as good as it is always told – grass is never greener on the other side! political power is always exaggerated to scare the other side or win more followers
- like politics a good lay always has a great following - try see a dude or chic with a great track record you will not believe the trail of possible partners.
- largest economic activity carried out by both the poor and the rich, people in Kibera and Lavington all engage in sex and politics at some point in their lives, spend huge sums of money to get more of it - by buying favors, opportunities or partnerships.
- depending on the levels there are few or no credentials to participate so long as you have the skills to negotiate, influence and persuade you are in!
- if you have money you can buy! see our politicians during campaign on K street, sugar mummies, daddies
- there is institutions for the practice of both - parliament for politics, marriage for sex BUT people engage in them without regard for these institutions
- there is always a push for the young blood to get into politics while the young are urged to abstain from sex
- the original intended purposes are not always in mind of those participating - not all politicians are development, good governance oriented - not all having sex want children, love, marriage etc
- rules apply yet they are broken left, right and center.....level playing field? not necessarily
- trivial issues always show up when things go wrong - during the break up the parties will hang all the dirty linens for all to see.....he snores, knows on style, etc etc political trouble is about who should be allowed to speak, who signs what, who is more powerful, types of cars, no. of bodyguards, etc etc
- one can skip, hop, step and jump from one party to another, similarly sex partnerships can be simple as changing clothes there is always multiple partnerships.....BUT again there are those who are very loyal, faithful and focused.
- atl east in Kenya this week, national headlines were on sex and politics!

To Be Continued

Special thanks to PMO for the inspiration.
OJ Scribe - Dexterity Media (c) 2009

corrupted Kenyan National Anthem - for the thieves and politicians

corrupted Kenyan National Anthem - for the thieves and politicians

by ‎Jack Owiti‎ on ‎‎Tuesday, May 5, 2009‎ at ‎3:50pm‎ ·‎
FOR KENYANS ONLY Politicians of all persuasions
Strip this our land and nation.
Fortunes motivate us and keep us.
May we steal with impunity
Dodge taxes in unity;
Plenty be sourced within our dockets.
Let all politicians arise
With scams both wily and foolproof.
Eating be our earnest endeavor,
And our cake-stand of Kenya ,
Heritage of plunder,
May we fight forever to perpetuate

Compared to the original true and awesome words enshrined by our founding fathers.....It is a shame how low we have fallen!!! am sad, grieving for my country.....

O God of all creation,

Bless this our land and nation.

Justice be our shield and defender,

May we dwell in unity,

Peace and liberty.

Plenty be found within our borders.

Featured post

KSL Cover Huyu Yesu by Mercy Masika & Angel Benard

When I started this blog, I wanted to address the lack of documentation of Kenyan Sign Language, Deaf Culture and History in Kenya and res...