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November 8, 2002

Deaf children should not be neglected

From: Kuensel, Buhutan's National Newspaper, Bhutan
Nov. 8, 2002

Deaf children must be given special care, facilities and equal opportunities to learn, to grow and to lead a respectable life.

This is the understanding that emerged from the first seminar on deaf children organized by the education department this week.

The seminar, among a host of other things, decided to initiate a five-year strategy to develop education services for deaf children. The strategy proposes to provide special facilities for them in the “mainstream” schools.

A resource person at the seminar, Mr Tom Bristow, said that one of the most commonly used and practical ways to help deaf children is through sign language. He added that only an informal sign language existed in the country at the moment. Bhutan, therefore, needed a sign language of its own.

“It would be inappropriate to incorporate foreign sign languages into the country because that will lead to cultural contamination since all languages originate from the culture,” Mr Bristow said.

Alison Rhodes, who looks after special education in the education department, said that about 12 percent of the deaf in Bhutan are children. Most deaf children in Bhutan, according to an education press statement, do not go to schools because of the lack of trained teachers and appropriate facilities.

This situation, however, is likely to change from next year.

To help children with hearing disabilities and impairment, the education department plans to establish a “special education unit” in Paro. The unit, to be attached to a mainstream school, will take in children with severe hearing problems from across Bhutan. The centre will be equipped with adequate specialist facilities and have trained manpower to attend to the children.

By Samten Wangchuk

Facilities for the deaf

A “deaf education resource unit” is to be constructed at the Drugyel Lower Secondary School in Paro to integrate hearing impaired children in the school with other students.

With funds and technical assistance, worth US $ 600,000, from the German Bhutan health friends association, the project includes a resource center and two hostels.

“This project will make a meaningful beginning for Bhutan,” said the minister of health and education, Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup. “The concept is practical and functional because we want to look at disability as not just disability but as an opportunity for these children to be part of a normal society and be productive citizens.”

Joint director in the education department, Tshewang Tandin, said that Drukgyel was chosen for the project because of its close proximity to a lower secondary school which was a stone’s throw away and also because children would have easy access to ENT facilities in Paro Hospital.

The association has undertaken five projects with the health and education ministry alone over the last 10 years. In 2001 it undertook the project to build a modernized hostel for the visually impaired children in Khaling.

This latest project includes building of a resource center and two hostels for boys and girls.

By Gopilal Acharya

Copyright 2001 - Kuensel