Rwanda’s deaf want sign language recognised

Internationally recognized Sign Language Alphabet

Internationally recognized Sign Language Alphabet

Representatives of handicapped groups in Rwandan Parliament want debates over the constitutional amendment and the third term to also include recognizing sign language among other official languages in Rwanda.

The push has been on for some time as the groups of deaf and blind persons have since the beginning of this year launched countrywide awareness campaign on rights of the blind and deaf, and the need to educate the community on use of their unspoken language.

As parliament continues to listen to opinions of Rwandans about the amendment of constitutional article 101- to allow President Paul Kagame to run for the third term, the handicapped groups parliament representatives say that use of sign language will be tabled for debate as well.

“We have already tabled the matter in parliament, to have the use of sign language made official countrywide, as one of the constitutional rights of the deaf and blind persons” said Honorable Gaston Rusiha, the parliament representative of handicapped persons.

Once approved by parliament, the measure will see children like Simon Uwimana, a 17 year old student in Huye district, Southern province who has for long had developmental ideas to share with others but failed due to lack of communication means.

“It is a very painful feeling to meet with people whom you cannot speak their language and neither can they speak your language. Not being able to express yourself and your ideas is a nightmare” Uwimana said.

Rwanda National Union of the deaf has been running a TV advertisement, using prominent personalities and celebrities as a way of encouraging the Rwandan community to learn using sign language and be able to relate with the deaf.

Emmanuel Ndayisaba the Executive Secretary of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) says they have started an initiative of training some groups such as police, teachers among others so as to have them communicate with the deaf.

According to the 2012 data from the national institute of statistics, there are about 30,000 deaf people in the country, and only 1,280 of them have acquired basic training of sign language and communication skills in schools located in Kigali, Muhanga, Huye, Rubavu districts among others.

The newly appointed Minister of Education, Dr. Papius Musafiri says that there is a possibility to have a massive implementation of education on sign language but this needs more numbers of trained persons to train others in the community.

“It is possible, and we already have a school for training specialists in sign language. In order to have mass education, we shall need more people trained” Musafiri said.