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Launching the first Tanzanian Sign Language course

Published Date: 05 Sep 2019
Photo: Using sign language to communicate

Everywhere we work, deaf children and young people face enormous barriers. Tanzania, is no different. Along with other disabilities, deafness is often a source of shame for families in Tanzania and the majority of deaf babies and children have limited access to resources such as specialist audiology services, hearing technology and speech therapy support which means that learning sign language is of paramount importance.

Deaf Child Worldwide has been working with partners CHAVITA (the Tanzanian Association of the Deaf) and UDSM (the University of Dar es Salaam) in Tanzania to get Tanzanian Sign Language (TSL) recognised as a language in its own right and to help increase the number of trained sign language interpreters through supporting the development of a university course in sign language interpretation.

The qualification is a one year certificate and covers deaf awareness and important teaching and communication techniques to help students prepare for sign language interpretation work in different environments from schools to workplaces. This course is the first and only course of its kind currently in Tanzania.

The programme is now in its second year and already has seen 27 students graduate through the programme and another 20 have signed up for this academic year. A number of the graduates are teachers wanting to gain essential skills to communicate and enhance the learning process for deaf children in the classroom.

One of the graduates is working as a sign language interpreter for a TV news programme, this is the first time a sign language interpreter has been represented on a national TV news channel in Tanzania.

Al McLeod, Head of East Africa at Deaf Child Worldwide comments: “With the first cohort of graduates already utilising the skills from the qualification in the workplace and another 20 students enrolled on the course, we know there is real potential and need to develop this course further.

“We are committed to removing barriers to reduce stigma attached to deafness. We will continue to work with our partners to raise awareness with government, policy makers and wider society in order to get recognition for sign languages and enhance communication and learning in classrooms and workplaces.”