THE Deaf Zimbabwe Trust (DZT) located in Harare’s eastern suburb, Greendale is playing a very critical role in transforming the lives of thousands of people living with hearing impairments.
The DZT was founded in 2012 by Lyndon Nkomo, a lawyer by profession, and Barabara Nyangairi, a social scientist, the couple’s son, who is deaf took his grade seven results which were below their expectations.
The couple then called for a meeting of parents to discuss the educational outcomes of deaf children in Harare. It became apparent that all parents of deaf children and the other deaf people were worried about the poor educational outcomes but did not know how to deal with the problem.
“It was in the spirit of this meeting that the idea of the Deaf Zimbabwe Trust was penciled. Over 80 parents, guardians and deaf children as well as deaf adults who were in attendance showed that there were many problems that were experienced by deaf and hard of hearing people. The root cause was lack of access to communication which affected education, access to employment among other things. The desire for a truly inclusive society birthed the Deaf Zimbabwe Trust,” explained Nyangairi.
She said that a number of challenges were encountered in the DZT’s formative stages, adding that most of the problems were rooted in the society’s negative perception of people with disabilities.
“There were no expectations for the DZT’s succes. This resulted in deaf children who had little or no ambition due to lack of successful deaf role models, poor expectations in the family and schools to give up,” she said.
Nyangairi said there has not been accountability on the deaf education and when they started the DZT, they had to identify what and where the problems in the empowerment of deaf people were. The DZT began research and found that the challenges faced by the deaf community were not clear-cut. They were complicated, intertwined and deep. The first issue researched was the family, issues of acceptance, and the status of the deaf in the family and how it would impact their status in the community.
The DZT is run by a board of directors who provide policy direction and a secretariat which runs the day to day operations of the organisation. The trust facilitates psycho-social support group services to teachers, parents, friends and relatives of the deaf, as well as deaf students and adults.
“All parents face challenges in raising children. However, the parent of a deaf and hard of hearing child needs more specific information in order to make decisions. Guest speakers are drawn from various sectors including the relevant government ministries and civil society,” said Lyndon Nkomo.
He explained that sign language is now an official language in Zimbabwe, hence the DZT seeks to promote the use of sign language in various spheres. Nkomo added that the DZT is advocating the use of sign language as a language of instruction in schools, training teachers in sign language and development of teaching materials specifically for the deaf.
“DZT advocates for the right to quality education for children who are deaf. Educational outcomes of deaf children are poor as a result of a number of factors such as language barriers, lack of appropriate accommodations in assessments. The current education system is unfriendly and insensitive to the needs of children, hence their ability to realise their full potential is hampered. Classrooms are unfriendly to the needs of deaf children and no effort has been made to make them sensitive to the needs of children who are deaf,” Nkomo added.
The DZT publishes a monthly newsletter, The Deaf Bulletin, which shares news for the deaf.
The trust is also involved in job placement for the deaf community through collection of Curriculum Vitaes from school leavers and links them with employers who post job vacancies. DZT also seeks to lead by example as it employs the deaf wherever possible.
DZT has ensured that the deaf have access to health information through provision of interpreters to enhance communication.
Find out more at http://www.deafzimbabwetrust.org or by calling (04)448293, 0713097320, or by visiting DZT at 12 Victory Avenue, Greendale, Harare.