Raising the voice of deaf people

There are about 1 million deaf people in Vietnam. They have a hard time accessing information, health, education, transportation and other social services. Sign language – the language of the deaf and of deaf culture – is still largely unknown in Vietnam. There are currently ten sign language interpreters in the whole country. It is very difficult for the deaf to raise their voice in their families, at work and in society.

There are about 1 million deaf people in Vietnam. They have a hard time accessing information, health, education, transportation and other social services. Sign language – the language of the deaf and of deaf culture – is still largely unknown in Vietnam. There are currently ten sign language interpreters in the whole country. It is very difficult for the deaf to raise their voice in their families, at work and in society.

There are some primary schools for the deaf in Vietnam, a few secondary schools and only two places where the deaf can study at upper secondary level. In schools where there are deaf students, teachers mainly use lip reading. Without the ability to hear, or to hear well, and having to guess from the shapes and movements of the mouth of the teachers, deaf students are not able to fully comprehend the lessons. This affects the development of deaf learners’ vocabulary, language and communication skills. Deaf learners do not achieve good results in studying.

Born deaf, I studied in a private elementary school for the deaf in Hanoi where teachers used lip reading. Whilst it usually takes five years to complete primary education (Grades 1 to 5), it took me 12. After that, I continued to lower secondary in the Centre on Education for the Deaf in Dong Nai Province (1,200 km from my hometown of Hanoi). Here, teachers taught in sign language. For the first time I found the lessons interesting. I understood much more easily. It was a totally different learning experience. In eight years, I studied from Grade 6 to Grade 12, and then I went to college for another three years. I obtained my certificate as a primary teacher from Dong Nai Education College. We now have 18 deaf people in the whole country who hold college certificates and one with a Master’s degree from an American University.

I am now teaching class 1B in Xa Dan primary school in Hanoi. Today more deaf children have the opportunity to learn sign language, but still many have no chance to develop a language, a tool to communicate with the outside world or any opportunity to obtain an education.
This year I was elected President of the Hanoi Association of the Deaf (HAD). In HAD we work to improve the reintegration of the deaf in society, and to develop the deaf community. Our resources are very limited, but HAD always tries to focus on supporting education. We feel that it is very important for the development of a community such as ours.

I really wish that society would look at the deaf as normal persons and believe in their abilities. The Ministry of Education should issue appropriate supporting policies for the deaf, especially deaf adults, who are always ignored, so they can learn throughout all levels of education, in formal and/or non-formal settings.

This article was first published in the journal Adult Edcuation and Development 84: Inclusion and Diversity. Read the whole issue

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