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International Week of the Deaf: How Nigerian Sign Language Interpreters help children dispel fear of Coronavirus



 International Week of the Deaf How Nigerian Sign Language Interpreters help children dispel fear of Coronavirus
International Week of the Deaf: How Nigerian Sign Language Interpreters help children dispel fear of Coronavirus

1 International Deaf Week: How Nigerian Sign Language Interpreters Help Children Allay Coronavirus Fear

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2 By Nigeria News Agency In Nigeria, it is estimated that over 27 million people live with various disabilities.

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3 While physical disability tops the rankings with 27.09% of this number according to a Shelby Treat (2016) report, deafness / hearing loss is the second form of disability in Nigeria with 23.76%, or 6.4 millions of people.

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4 This is all the more worrying as studies show that 75 percent of deaf children and young adults are not genetically born deaf, but health complications, lack of good medical care, ignorance and poverty have resulted. often contributed to the challenge.

5 The Nigerian deaf community and the struggle with communication

6 A major recurring problem in the integration and empowerment of the deaf in Nigeria is communication; ease of communication with their hearing families, transparent communication in schools to better understand all topics and communication with the hearing population at large for daily activities.

7 The lack of communication and transparent understanding between Deaf and hearing communities has often resulted in high levels of illiteracy and poverty among Deaf people, who, although hard of hearing, can adapt, learn easily and reach the highest level. with sign language.

8 As the world tackles the coronavirus (COVID-19), offering solutions to contain the virus, which is in its third wave, communication has remained essential to disseminate information to countries and their populations, including deaf communities. But this is not always easy for deaf communities due to their particular communication needs.

9 How Nigerian Deaf Signatories Were Introduced to World Class Children’s Book “My Hero Is You”

10 Make a difference with a book

11 A team of Deaf signatories across Nigeria were assembled by Dr. Emmanuel Asonye, ​​a linguistics scholar at the University of New Mexico, USA, to translate the book of Internationally renowned “My Hero is You” which helps children, their parents and caregivers understand and answer questions about the coronavirus.


13 “My Hero is You” is supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund and other global, regional and national experts, including parents, caregivers, teachers and children in 104 countries.

14 Deaf signatories say the project is particularly helpful to the Nigerian deaf community who previously struggled to obtain an indigenous sign language.


16 With the signing of this book in an Indigenous Nigerian Sign Language, Deaf signatories can now reach out to their communities. They teach them in sign language they understand, using local words to explain how the virus came about and how to prevent its spread and protect their communities.

17 In particular, the book is useful for deaf children in communities who find it difficult to communicate with their hearing families before they can access formal deaf schools. These children are the most affected by the lack of information during the coronavirus pandemic.

18 Dr Emmanuel Asonye, ​​whose work with deaf communities in Nigeria spans seven years as Executive Director and co-founder of the Save the Deaf and Endangered Languages ​​(S-DELI) initiative in Nigeria, said the indigenous signing of the book could not have come at a better time as most of the words in the vocabulary taught to the deaf community in Nigeria are of foreign content.

19 “There is a conflict of linguistic variety that deaf children learn in this country. We have found that in the schools for the deaf where we have worked, the variety of sign language taught is what is considered American Sign Language.

20 “Technically we’ll say it’s not American Sign Language, but the problem is, it’s a variety of language that’s considered foreign, it’s not native, it’s not local per se. .

21 “For example, deaf learners experience foreign seasons like winter and summer; they know words like ‘snow’ which are not in their surroundings but don’t yet have a native sign for local fruit and nut words like ‘nutgrass’ so they spell it with their fingers, ”said Asonye.

22 Using the American Sign Language and spelling model to teach in Nigerian schools limited understanding and wasted years of knowledge, Asonye notes.

23 Impact of signing “My Hero is You” in an Indigenous Nigerian Sign Language

24 Mr. Joshua Gyang, Deaf Singer and Head of the Federal College of Education, Jos was born a hearing child but became deaf at the age of 6 after suffering from mumps while in grade 2.

25 He says having an indigenous sign language for the book will greatly inspire Nigeria’s deaf community to focus on using the local signature for learning, to facilitate communication and understanding.

26 “This project exposed us to deaf life, what it is and what the future will look like.

27 “This opens up ways to help other deaf people in rural communities to appreciate their language and use it more and to open up new avenues for them because at the moment we do not have the appropriate means to help them. deaf people, but through this project it will create a better way and a good future for the deaf community in Nigeria.

28 Ms Nkiru Lovina Edem, who also became deaf at the age of 5 due to a bad malaria injection, says the terrible experience of being enrolled in a hearing school while she is deaf will push her to Spread the “My Hero is You” coronavirus message to young deaf children and their families.

29 “I didn’t grow up in a family that understood sign language, so communication has always been a problem. Even at school, we did not have sign language interpreters to interpret what the hearing teacher was teaching; I went to hearing school.

30 “When I couldn’t cope with this school for the hearing impaired, I was transferred to a school for the deaf where we had deaf teachers teaching us American Sign Language.

31 “I will be teaching my students Native Sign Language at a young age to grow up with, because American Sign Language is not superior to our Native Sign Language,” she said.


33 Mr. Ifeanyi Umah, another deaf singer with a master’s degree in special education who became deaf at 15, reiterates the importance of having an indigenous signed book on the coronavirus for the deaf community.

34 “We have to understand that this native sign language is very important for communication. Signing “My hero is you” was interesting until the end.

35 “Parents pay more attention to hearing children than deaf children because they believe that hearing children will be more successful than the deaf child in the family.

36 “So having a book signed especially for the deaf, in an indigenous language, telling them how strong they are and how they can help each other is powerful,” Umah said.

37 Likewise, Mr Festus Zenda, journalist and pastor who lost his hearing at the age of 13, said his message, which is primarily aimed at deaf people, now incorporates how families and caregivers can understand and deal with COVID-19.

38 “It had a positive impact on my life; I am involved in this project. I am part of something that will bring positive change to my deaf community, so I can easily say that I am a change maker.

39 “I hope that at the end of the day our deaf identity will return because for many years now we have been copying foreign sign language. But now we’re going to start using our own that identify us as a community.

40 “It will give us respect, so I am proud to use my own native sign language to communicate with my other deaf siblings.”

41 Challenges in developing an Indigenous sign language

42 Coming together from all areas of the country to ensure an indigenous signature of “My Hero is You” did not come without challenges, the signatories said.

43 Before meeting in Abuja to compare notes and create synergy, the signers worked individually and collectively, exchanging and comparing notes and short videos via cellphones and laptops to obtain indigenous cues for the words in the book. .

44 Mr. Festus Zenda cites the poor supply of electricity to power their work tools, power outages during video sessions and poor internet service in their field as major obstacles to collecting materials for indigenous translations.

45 Despite these obstacles, the signatories took the bull by the horn, using indigenous Nigerian words to translate the contents of the book ‘My Hero is You’ so that deaf youth, their parents, caregivers and Nigerian hearing families and communities can also enjoy the message it contains.


47 Now they move from school to school and into deaf communities spreading the message of social distancing, fighting against fear, offering protection and prevention strategies as stipulated by Nigerian public health institutions and the World Organization for Human Rights. health to guide deaf children, their parents and caregivers to stop the spread of the virus.


49 The translation of this book is only the beginning of building an indigenous sign language vocabulary for formal use in Nigeria.

50 *** If used, please credit the author and the Nigerian News Agency .

51 This story is supported by Solutions Journalism and Nigeria Health Watch

52 Source: NAN

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