LESOTHO Millennium Development Authority (LMDA) Chief Operations Officer Keketso Chalatse has called on Basotho to learn sign language in order to facilitate co-existence with aurally-challenged members of society.
He said this was important as the deaf community faced the challenge of being marginalised as if they were not part of society.
“The international community has taken a crucial step towards ensuring that communication with the deaf community is easier with the introduction of the universal sign language,” Mr Chalatse said.
“The next step is for all of us to learn so that we can communicate with them easily. Just as we all learn different languages such as English or Sesotho to communicate with one another, let us also learn sign language as one of the essential languages we all need to co-exist,” he added.
He made the call during a ceremony to hand over goods donated by LMDA staff members to Kananelo Centre for the Deaf in Berea this week.
LMDA staff members contributed funds after learning of the plight of the children at the centre and bought goods that included foodstuffs, cosmetics and toys.
“These donations are a symbol of our support and love for you. They have been given out of the pureness of our hearts and that is the most important thing,” Mr Chalatse said.
He said it was important for the rest of society to take the initiative since it was impossible for the deaf community to learn the spoken language while it was possible for the former to learn sign language.
He said with adequate support, deaf children had as much chance as anyone else of growing up to become important members of society.
Mr Chalatse’s sentiments were echoed by the centre’s head Sister Miriam Mosebo.
She said the children were forced to live in two different worlds; one at the centre where they had one language which they all understood, and another outside the centre where there was no uniform form of communication and understanding.
“Sign language should be the third official language in the country since it is an independent language which also needs an independent education curriculum,” Sister Mosebo said.
The centre teaches all subjects on the national curriculum through sign language from Standard One to Standard Seven, after which the students have to leave for further studies.
Sister Mosebo however said it was not easy to teach deaf children using the same national primary school curriculum used by ordinary children.
Kananelo Centre for the Deaf was established in 1991 by the Holy Family Sisters of Bordeaux – a community of Catholic women in Lesotho, and it cares for children aged six and above. There are currently 68 boys and girls and the class of 2013 became the first group to sit for Standard Seven external examinations.
She said the centre was established after they observed that there were families who struggled to accept deaf children as their own, resulting in the children being neglected.
Sister Mosebo indicated there were still several operational challenges including inadequate resources which had impacted on the centre’s ability to accommodate more children.
She said they were failing to complete a hall building due to financial constraints.
“We also struggle to acquire the special learning equipment the children require for their unique needs,” Sis. Mosebo said, adding the centre occasionally receives donations from a number of well-wishers like LMDA while the Ministry of Education and Training chips in with education scholarships.
The Centre has devised a number of interventions to generate funds including the rearing of 900 layer chickens whose eggs are sold and also supplement the children’s diet.
In addition to growing vegetables for consumption, they also have a dairy cow whose milk is sold while some of it is fed to the children.
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