Staff of Leififi College have identified the need to have professional development training in the area of sign language after a hearing impaired student enrolled in the College at the beginning of 2021. As described by the Principal Mrs Lauano, “He is a bright student, very keen to participate in practical activities in class but his Teachers find it hard to communicate with him as none of my staff have any knowledge of Sign Language or ways to communicate with him”. This is not a new issue in schools as the number of children with disabilities enrolling in regular schools is steadily increasing in Samoa.
According to disability data collected by the Ministry, 60% of children with hearing impairment are born to hearing families and this difference creates a sense of isolation for such students that can continue throughout life. Many students who are deaf or have hearing impairment communicate primarily through a visual language, with communication relying heavily on facial expression, mouth movement or body gestures which are communication skills that co-exist with spoken language. In addition, children who are deaf or have hearing impairment struggle to get access to critical information about Covid-19, its impact and any safety orders that may be issued. While those who are hearing can rely on news reports on the television or radio, many with hearing loss cannot rely on these sources. Captioning and written English are not adequate methods for information access for those with hearing impairments because of the inaccuracies in captioning or limited English proficiency that is common for these people. Hence the need to develop training in Sign Language to provide accurate and accessible communication of such important information.
The Inclusive Education Policy Implementation Plan includes a focus on empowerment of teachers to improve the inclusivity of our schools and classrooms so that all children can benefit from quality education. The Inclusive Education Unit in the Ministry works steadfastly with teachers and students to build workforce competency to this end,
One aim of this training for teachers at Leififi College is to build their competency to use this way of communication and develop teaching strategies to assist students with hearing impairment. In this way, teacher capacity in inclusive education practise in Samoa will be built more rapidly with the benefit of using local skilled teachers.
Afamasaga Dr. Karoline Afamasaga – Fuata’i
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER