In An Unfriendly Environment: Deaf Students Deprived of a Good Education

By Rami Zalloum

Ahmed, a man in his twenties – is unable to write or read a whole sentence correctly, despite graduating from the Faculty of Special Education with a Bachelor degree.

Ahmed was supposed to have learned the basics of reading and writing as a child in a special school for deaf students under the Ministry of Education, which was his only choice at the time after the principal of a nearby school refused to accept him in the primary school.

Sign language was the only language he used during his school years to communicate with the world around him. During that time, he met with his deaf colleagues at school to communicate and participate in different activities, with no contact with the world around them.

There are challenges faced by Ahmed and his colleagues after leaving this world and entering high school, where the subjects are difficult and arduous for them, due to their lack of many skills, especially writing and reading.

“We used to study by memorizing the material without any understanding or actual comprehension. Our goal was to pass the school tests and that is it.” Ahmed says.

For the same reasons, Eman failed to fill the standard admission form to choose a university major. After her third attempt, she passed with a GPA of 66%, topping her peers at the same school.

The main problem for Eman was that she did not receive good education in the early stages of her school life. “There was neglect and indifference in the teaching methods, not to mention poor proficiency in teaching sign language.

No Passing!

The number of public schools concerned with students who are hearing impaired reaches 11 schools distributed across the Kingdom’s governorates. Most of these schools are under the name “Al-Amal Schools for the Deaf”.

In the past three years, no deaf student has passed unified Highschool exams in Madaba, Irbid, or Ruseifeh. However, 1 out of 57 students passed the exam in the capital Amman, and another student out of 12 in Karak, while one student out of 9 passed in Aqaba, and another student out of 9 made it in the schools of Koura and Tafilah.

Cheating is justified!

“Some deaf students resort to cheating on most exams. Sometimes they rely on sign language interpreters who join them in the exam halls to help answer questions or verify answers,” said Ahmed, who spoke painfully of this reality, which shows indifference to the problems of deaf students, and the lack of a serious plan from the Ministry of Education to develop solutions.

Director of Al Amal School in Amman, Rima Shdeifat, said that the reasons for the drop in the academic level of deaf students are due to the lack of good basic education in the first stages of language skills and lip reading, which depends on the parents’ awareness and interest in developing their child.

According to Shadifat, the schools for the deaf and the hearing-impaired all lack vocational and industrial majors, which may offer better opportunities than the current ones. In addition, she points to the lack of qualified educational staff who can deal with students, and who master sign language.

Shadifat believes that the curriculum adopted by the schools of the Ministry of Education is the same used in the schools of the deaf. It is considered “very large and inappropriate” for the special needs of deaf students, and does not take into consideration the needs and abilities of the hearing impaired.

Six years ago, committees formed by the Ministry of Education to measure how accredited curricula are meeting the needs of deaf students came up with a package of measures, including the abolition of a number of complex terms and composition materials in Arabic and English, as well as the deletion of mathematics.

Director of the Department of Special Education in the Ministry of Education, Dr. Farid Al-Khatib, commented that the work of these committees “is still ongoing with the goal to reach an advanced curriculum that accommodates all the needs of this group of people.”

Al-Khatib explains that the challenges in the education of deaf people, especially in literacy skills, are global challenges that are not limited to Jordan. The reasons behind these challenges are related to the difficulty of translating the subjects to sign language. The translation is not very accurate and only conveys the general idea of the content. This relies on educating students to master lip reading in order to connect this skill with sign language and get the complete and correct meaning.

To whom it may concerns

The prevalence of hearing disabilities and hearing difficulties among Jordanians aged over 5 years is 3.1% according to the Jordan Report on the Status of Disability of 2017 issued by the Department of Public Statistics and the Supreme Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The percentage among Jordanian males is 3.2%, and 3.1% among Jordanian females. Ajloun and Tafileh governorates recorded the highest prevalence rate of 3.5% each.

The activist and trainer for the rights of people with hearing disabilities, Islam Zoghoul, believes that it is essential for ministers to promote the basics of sign language, communicate with this segment directly, and identify the demands and challenges they face without the intervention of an interpreter.

The parallel shadow report prepared by the Jordanian Deaf Community submitted to the UN Committee following the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities includes a number of neglected rights of this group in Jordan. Article 24 on education addressed the absence of official statistical information for deaf children in regular schools, and the lack of professional experience in their education.

The report recommends that the state undertakes a fact-finding inquiry to determine the situation of these deaf students in urban and rural areas.

The Deaf Community responded to the list of issues raised by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Hearing Disabilities, and commentated on 33 articles and questions.

Zoghoul explains that it is important to identify the most prominent problems that face the deaf in various aspects, and to present them to the concerned authorities in the State in order to find radical solutions that ensure a decent life for this group of people.

According to the report, there is no official statistical information available by the government or the Supreme Council on the issue of access to education for Persons with Disabilities.

In fact, 20 deaf students rented a private car to reach a local school for the deaf, about 30 minutes away from their homes, since their number did not convince the local school or the Ministry of Education to provide a transport bus, according to the narrations of the parallel report.

The new law

Mohanad Al-Azza, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, explains that the new amendments to the law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities “adopts a comprehensive concept of disability, taking into account the environment that impairs the person to the same degree as the physical, mental, or psychological disability. The impairing environment has become a defining element of disability under this Law. It has become necessary to make the physical and non-physical environment free from behavioral and sensory barriers so that persons with disabilities can enjoy their rights and freedoms on an equal basis.”

The Law defines the term “free and informed consent” according Al-Azza, as “the satisfaction of the person after being informed in a way by which he/she understands the content, effects, and consequences of the lawful and unlawful conduct taken for or against him/her or any conduct he/she intends to engage in”.

The Law requires the Ministry of Education to provide reasonable accommodation in public and private schools. It also stipulates that no educational institution shall be licensed if there are no conditions of access. The Law also requires the Ministry to accept and integrate children with disabilities into educational institutions, and to prevent their exclusion from the right to education on the basis of disability.

This story was published in Al-Ghad newspaper at the following link: http://alghad.com/articles/2026472

* Supported by Journalists for Human Rights Organization (JHR) 

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