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November 2, 2003

Deaf-mute students set new standards

From: Gulf Daily News, Bahrain - Nov 2, 2003

By REBECCA TORR Published: 2 November 2003

A GROUP of deaf-mute students are breaking down barriers as they study art and design at the Bahrain Training Institute (BTI).This is the first time in Bahrain that a training institute for mainstream students has offered courses to people with special needs.The 13 students, all aged 18 and 19, won praise from Labour and Social Affairs Ministry assistant under-secretary for social affairs Shaikha Hind bint Salman Al Khalifa as she visited the centre yesterday.

They enrolled in the two-year General Diploma in Art and Design at the end of September and their progress has already stunned staff.

"The directors of BTI were so impressed with the group that they called for us to visit earlier than expected," said Shaikha Hind.

"I think they gained a lot of confidence at the Shaikhan Al Farisi Centre for Total Communication before they came here, and because their level of education and communication is very advanced they don't have a problem with communication."

Shaikha Hind and Labour and Social Affairs Ministry assistant under-secretary for training Abdul Elah Al Qassimi toured the BTI Jewellery and Goldsmith Training Centre and watched the students filing metal and testing precious stones for irregularities.

Shaikha Hind expressed her optimism for work opportunities for the students and believed that they would do well if involved in workmanship, design and precious stone testing.

"We have two years to prepare these students for the workplace and from what I have seen in my experience I think they will do very well," she said.

BTI Art and Design department head Sayed Jamel Al Hashimi also praised the achievements of the students.

"What the group is producing now in five weeks would take normal student groups eight or nine weeks, so they have reduced the time by half," he said.

"I am very proud of what they have achieved and they have taught me a lot too, especially with sign language and communication."

Mr Al Hashimi said the course aimed at giving students the necessary skills, knowledge and hands-on experience to create more opportunities for them in the workplace.

"Our hope is that they will work in design and manufacturing of gold, or even advertising and promotions, because in the second semester we also cover these topics," he said.

"We want to give them more than one skill, so they have more than one job opportunity.

"Everyone wants to give these people sympathy, but actually what they need are opportunities."

During the two-year course the group will learn art, design and goldsmith skills such as filing and polishing, as well as gemmology, imaging and testing and advertising and promotions.

The course represents part of BTI's responsibility to provide opportunities for the handicapped.

This is the first time that many of BTI course instructors have taught special needs students, but they said that so far they have not faced any difficulties.

In fact, they are impressed by the standard of work.

"Communication is quite easy, as all the trainees are intermediate standard school leavers, and so they can read and write Arabic, use sign language and even read lips," said BTI Art and Design instructor Sayed Al Alawi.

Fellow instructor Mohamm-ed Taha agreed.

"They produce a lot of things that amaze us all and the very rapid progress makes our mission very easy," he said.

Even though it is early days BTI director Mohammed Dirbas said he was happy with the students' progress and hoped that in the future they would be in mainstream classes.

"The students have done so well and we are taking the work produced by the handicapped as a benchmark for normal people," he said.

As well as a General Diploma in Art and Design, BTI is planning to offer special needs students diplomas in fashion design and graphic design, starting next September.

© Gulf Daily News