School heads of special needs schools have tasked the government to increase the number of sign language teachers to handle the increasing number of learners with hearing impairments.
The school heads have the call during the central region special needs schools head teachers meeting held at St Mark School for the deaf Bwanda in Kalungu district.
Speaker after speaker raised the concern of how low numbers of teachers with sign language skills are greatly affecting the learning of children with hearing impairment, challenging the government to increase the number of teachers that are conversant with sign language to aid the learning of these pupils.
According to Sister Angella Nanyonjo the head teacher of St Mark School for the Deaf, a big number of schools for people with hearing impairments are stuck with the challenge of a limited number of teachers that can teach sign language, which affects the learning of learners with special needs.
She says that those few that are in service are poorly motivated which at times affects their performance and this in turn reflects in the poor grades the learners with special needs get in the final examinations.
“They play a big role compared to their colleagues that teach in ordinary schools but get the same pay or even slightly lower pay and this demoralizes those little ones that are deployed to work in this kind of setting where we use sign language.” She added.
St Nanyonjo says that at times their schools are given teachers that are illiterate in sign language, because of the low numbers of those that know sign language and they have to hire the services of a trainer to train teachers in sign language, which is so costly.
She explains that sign language trainers are not common and to get someone to train your teachers for over two weeks to learn basics is not an easy task. Sometimes you may get a teacher who has a negative attitude toward sign language, and it may take him or her a long time or even fail to learn completely.
The school head that hailed from Kampala, Mpigi, Masaka, and Kalungu among other areas also raised concern over sudden transfers of teachers saying that it greatly affects their operations.
They also raised the small funds that they get from the government yet a big number of parents can’t fully support their children’s education since most special needs schools run boarding sections.
Sarah Nakabuye Kigongo the school teacher of Masaka school for the deaf, says that taking care of a special needs learner is more costly than an ordinary learner since they have to take special meals but a big number of parents have in their schools are not that financially stable asking for well-wishers to always come to their rescue in support in food of staff, especially at this time when food prices have almost tripled.
“We don’t have many institutions that train teachers that offer sign language classes. There are a few such as Sign Health Uganda that offer classes in sign language. The government should do something about these challenges so that we can have more instructors of sign language so that the quality of special needs children can also improve” she added.
The issue of child-pupil ratio can hardly be realized in special needs schools because of the limited number of teachers in our schools that can sign, you find a class with many learners, and you pity the teacher who is handling such a bigger class of pupils which also affects pupils learning in the end.
Faizoh Kirabira, Sign Health Uganda Central Region team leader, says that the meeting was an opener on the challenges faced by proprietors of special needs schools asking the government to increase the funding given to the schools and hire more sign language teachers to improve the performance of learners with special needs.
He says that the engagement is aimed at knowing the challenges the schools of special needs face and coming out with solutions on how the challenges can be addressed internally by learning from each other and improving on the performance of special needs schools in final examinations.
Kalungu district inspector of schools, Mpaka Mbaga Tuzinde asked the school heads of schools with special needs learners to always stay in contact with the district education authorities to guide them on transfers before they are affected to reduce the challenge of having teachers with sign language skills in schools with ordinary learners instead of being posted in special needs schools.