Sign language teachers a scarcity

The special needs unit within the Ministry of Education said that they are experiencing challenges in finding qualified sign language teachers.

Joy-Ann Harrigan, education officer for the unit, said that the goal of the ministry is to expand and cater to the needs of more children who have hearing and speech impediments.

“It is difficult to get teachers to work with children who are deaf,” she said while speaking on the OBSERVER AM Radio Programme yesterday.

The education officer said that despite the challenges the unit is currently facing, they have been successful with the limited teaching resources.

“We have our first student who was attending the Clare Hall Secondary who took three CXC subjects and successfully negotiated them while going through the school using sign language.” said Harrigan.

The ministry is currently hosting a two-week workshop to sharpen the skills of teachers dealing with children with special needs.

“We need to increase the ability and capacity of teachers to deal with children who are coming with challenges,” said Harrigan. “And because we have universal secondary education, and the students will go on to secondary school, the teachers in the primary schools will need that skill to communicate.”

The education officer further added that there needs to be an increase in the number of sign language teachers, but the ministry will not be able to employ the requisite number of special needs teachers needed for each school. As a result, she said the workshop will focus on developing the skills of the interested teachers who are already in the system.

“Those who are showing the interest now in learning sign language will widen the number of persons available to work with children, so it will become easier,” said Harrigan.

The education officer said sign language is not only for students and teachers, but also for the general public so that we can communicate more effectively with those who are challenged in that area.

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