what we work on
raising standards for deaf children
Deaf people face an extraordinary struggle in Tanzania. Deaf children are socially stigmatised and the school system has few specialist trained teachers, scarce resources and little understanding of their needs. The majority end up isolated and unable to communicate. 90% will reach adulthood unable to write their names or count to ten. Most will return to their home villages to spend their lives doing menial tasks - fetching water and collecting firewood - trapped in a vicious circle of poverty and ignorance. It is a lonely, silent existence.
In 2018 the plight of deaf children received widespread attention when every student at a specialist school for the deaf failed the country’s most important public exam. Closer inspection of the results showed that deaf children across the country were failing on an alarming scale: 76% received a Fail at CSEE compared with 0.7% of hearing students. The Ministry of Education responded with a request for policy support and accepted I4ID’s subsequent offer of support.
A critical barrier to inclusive education for deaf people in Tanzania is the lack of a harmonised sign language. Historically the use of sign language was banned in Tanzania and more recent efforts by foreign donors to teach signing have resulted in a patchwork of systems, which prevents deaf people from different schools or regions being able to communicate and complicates national teacher training efforts. In partnership with the Tanzanian Institute for the Deaf (Chama Cha Viziwi Tanzania or “Chavita”), the Tanzanian Institute for Education and the University of Dar es Salaam, I4ID has secured government approval for the production of a harmonised Tanzanian Sign Language. Work is starting on this exciting linguistic feat, spearheaded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST).
A modern examination, curriculum and teacher training framework is also essential for any inclusive education system and I4ID is working with Chavita to rewrite these guidelines in line with current global standards. MoEST is already trialling different examination formats. Public announcements by high-ranking politicians, promoting these steps towards inclusive education and greater rights for the deaf community are a positive influence on social norms and the way Tanzanian society views and treats people with disabilities.