Newsletter September 2021.
This whole month there was a lockdown in the country and the schools could not reopen. There were still 4000 corona cases per day and 220 corona deaths at the beginning of September. We heard that one of the mothers, one of our deaf children and a teacher also got corona. This month the staff members were as normal present in school attending to general cleaning, online education and there was contact with the parents. All the staff members are vaccinated and on September 27th our deaf pupils between 12 and 18 got a jab.
September 23th was World Sign Language Day with the slogan: “Even the Deaf have a Voice!” Imaging yourself in a foreign country where nobody speaks any language you know. No matter how hard you try, no one is able to clearly communicate with you. You are alone. Imaging you could not enjoy music, to go to a concert, to hear the birds singing, a baby crying or the voice of your loved ones. This might seem a nightmare to you, but it is a reality for millions of deaf people in the world. Sign language is the language of the 400.000 deaf people in Sri Lanka. They can express themselves in this language. On September 23th the world celebrated the International Day of Sign Language. Most of the people don’t know this, but each country has its own Sign Language. They express their own linguistic identity and cultural diversity in this language.
This year the International Federation of the Deaf declared the theme:”We Sign for Human Rights”, highlighting the fact that even deaf have a voice and that sign language deserves to be recognized more by hearing people and treated equal in status with other spoken languages. This is especially important for Sri Lanka, where the sign language using community is often stigmatized, discriminated against and suffers from a severe lack in opportunity for better quality in life. On September 23th the media in Sri Lanka was highlighting this event in the newspapers and on TV. Even short film cuts of the Dr. Reijntjes School for the Deaf were shown in all the News Bulletins! A new Sign Language Centre is opened to train more people as a Sign Language Interpreter. That is good news. When you are born deaf in Sri Lanka it is possible that you go to one of the Government or private Deaf Schools at a young age. That is not only important to learn the sign language without problems, but also very important for their development and childhood in a deaf society what gives them self confidence. Most deaf children come from rural areas and they have to stay full time in the Deaf Institution, away from home.
The students in the Dr. Reijntjes School for the Deaf follow a structured time table and get an all round education with computers and a smart class. After school they follow extra classes in communication, dancing, cooking, embroidery and art. When they are in Grade 11 they can sit for the G.C.E. Ordinary Level examination. After that they can follow Vocational Training in Graphic Design, an Agriculture Course or other NVQ Vocational Training Courses like Woodwork, Welding, Bakery, Beauty, and Tailoring. The School gives all these services free of charge. Most of the deaf students get a job in the hearing society like communication centers, garment factories, beauty salons, after finishing the Vocational Training. Unfortunate many of them face a lot of discrimination because hearing people can’t follow their sign language and also don’t have patience to find out what they are telling, even when they write it down.
The deaf are contributing a lot to society, therefore they should be treated equal. Unfortunately there is still a long way to go!