By Fatoumatta K. Jallow
Gambia Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (GADHOH) joined the rest of the world to commence observing the International Week of the Deaf at a ceremony held on the 1st October 2015 at its head office in Kanifing Institutional layout behind the Serekunda hospital.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. DodouLoum, the Executive Director of GADHOH, thanked the guests for responding to the invitation which, he said, is a demonstration of the genuine concern they have for deaf people.
“So it is good for all of us to take this opportunity and look deeply into the situation of deaf people, sensitize other people about the facts, and suggest solutions to the authorities and development partners,” said Mr. Loum.
He emphasized the importance of the education of deaf people in the process of their development, adding that they need opportunities and other facilities for their development and productivity, such as employment, access to medical care, access to welfare, social security and scholarships.
The GADHOH Executive Secretary said “considering all these disadvantages tied up with illiteracy and poor education, one is compelled to ask the question “Why are the education authorities failing to provide needed facilities for deaf education even after 50 years of Gambia’s nationhood, even though deaf people are tax payers?” He added “it is common to hear officials saying “We do not know how to educate deaf people!” He said such statements should never be uttered by officials.
“It is the same as saying “Hey! You deaf people, you are second class citizens! Your education is not a priority! Therefore you must wait,” he said.
The GADHOH Executive Secretary said even after 50 years of Gambia’s independence they have seen nursery schools, primary schools, secondary schools, colleges, and universities being built for the hearing community. “What about the deaf people?” he enquired.
Saihou T.M.F. Sanyang, the permanent secretary 1, ministry for lands and regional government, for his part, said he lacks of information and knowledge on GADHOH.
He said GADHOH, a national association, was established and run by the hard of hearing themselves and was duly registered by the competent Gambian authorities in 1992 “as a non-profit making organization with the following abridged quartet of functions like representative function, sign language development and employment, sign language interpreter employment, and delivery (ranging from education, training, medicare, IEC to advocacy and creation of employment opportunities).”
Mr. Sanyang said the anchor of GADHOH as an able institution is the resolute resolve, confidence and commitment of the membership of the association, in general, and management, in particular.
As the guest speaker on the occasion, Madam Neneh M.C. Cham, the President of the Female Lawyers Association of the Gambia (FLAG), said she understands that the Iinternational Day of Sign Language is being celebrated this week in conjunction with the International Day of the Deaf on the theme “With Sign Language Rights Our Children Can”.
She said this will give the celebration maximum impact as it is highlighting the positive contributions made by the deaf and hard of hearing as well as the constraints and challenges they face in their everyday life.
The FLAG president noted her observation that the event is mainly celebrated by those affected. “I think we should all start thinking together, working together on all issues regardless of whether we are directly affected or not. One doesn’t have to wait until you have a relative who is deaf or hard of hearing to care about the issues that affect them,” said female lawyers’ association president.
Madam Cham said the occasion should indeed be a national event involving all and sundry.
She concluded by calling everybody to make the plight of the deaf and hard of hearing, particularly the children, a priority.
The permanent secretary at the ministry of information and communication infrastructure (MOICI), Mr. Camara, also addressed the gathering, among other speakers.
Mr. AmadouTouray, a parent, moderated the event.
It was well attended by the GADHOH members, relatives and friends.