JIS: As the parent of a hearing-impaired teenager, Marcia Hunter welcomes the Partnership for Literacy Enhancement for the Deaf Project, which, she says, will open up academic opportunities for her daughter and positively impact her future ambitions.
In an interview with JIS News, Ms. Hunter says her 18-year-old daughter, who attends the Lister Mair/Gilby High School for the Deaf, puts no limits on herself.
The talented teen, who is in Grade 12, already has a distinction in Visual Arts at the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) level, and is preparing to sit additional examinations in Mathematics, Accounts and Information Technology (IT) in 2018.
The proud mother who supports her ambitious daughter in her pursuit of a career as a teacher of the deaf in visual arts or mathematics, says the project is a positive step in the right direction to foster greater inclusion and opportunities for members of the deaf community.
For his part, State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Floyd Green, hails the initiative, which he says is in line with the Government’s national development agenda, which seeks to ensure that every member of society is included in the process.
“If we are to truly move Jamaica forward, it must be with an effective education system that leaves no child behind,” Mr. Green asserts.
Launched in September, the three-year project aims to realise five major objectives, including an increase in the number of deaf students functioning at age-appropriate levels for literacy development by 10 percentage points in all schools operated by the major service providers of deaf education in Jamaica.
These are the Danny Williams School for the Deaf; Lister Mair/Gilby High School for the Deaf; and Excelsior Primary School Integrated Unit for the Deaf, in Kingston; Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf – Kingston and Mandeville campuses; Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf, St. James; May Pen Unit for the Deaf, Clarendon; Port Antonio Unit for the Deaf, Portland and St. Christopher’s School for the Deaf, St. Ann.
Activities to be implemented to achieve this objective include diagnostic assessment of vulnerable students, specially designed reading competitions and workshops, reading boot camps and educational field trips.
The second objective is the development of a Jamaican Sign Language (JSL) curriculum to be incorporated in schools for the deaf by 2020.
It is expected that this will assist in developing students’ comprehension and critical thinking skills as well as act as a catalyst for students to access higher education.
Pointing out that deaf persons using JSL have difficulty communicating written thoughts, Ms. Hunter says that the project comes at an opportune time, as it will assist her daughter in her exam preparations.
“With the Literacy in English Language, it will improve her grammar and bring more awareness about language arts. It will also assist her in her exams and improve her ability to relate to a hearing person in terms of her writing,” she adds.
Two other significant goals of the project are to have a minimum of 75 per cent of all teachers advancing at least two levels of JSL Communicative Competence at the end of the project; and to empower parents of the deaf to effectively parent and communicate with their children.
To achieve this, the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD) will be teaching parents sign language and effective parenting strategies. They will also be coached on how to read with their children using sign language, through the JAD’s Shared Reading Programme.
Ms. Hunter, who is attending sign language classes at JAD, says being able to communicate properly with her child is important as this is the only way she can nurture the critical parent-child relationship, and is encouraging all persons, particularly parents with hearing-impaired children, to learn this language.
“You have to find time for your child, especially if he or she has special needs. You need to be able to communicate with your child,” she says.
Meanwhile, Project Manager, Tisha Ewen-Smith, says that with more than 90 per cent of students across the island’s primary and secondary schools for the deaf functioning below the expected grade levels in reading comprehension, the project will equip these children with the necessary skills to advance to higher education and improve their outcomes as adults.
“The goal of the project is to increase the literacy level of deaf children in all schools operated by the major service providers of deaf education in Jamaica… and ensure equal access as clients, students and, most importantly, as citizens of Jamaica,” she says.
The programme will impact more than 400 deaf children and their families as well as 100 educators in nine participating schools for the deaf.
The Partnership for Literacy Enhancement for the Deaf Project is slated to run from April 2017 to April 2020, and is being implemented by the JAD, in partnership with international funding agency, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
CAPTION: State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Floyd Green (right), spells his name in sign language during the launch of the Partnership for Literacy Enhancement for the Deaf Project at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in Kingston recently. The project aims to increase the literacy level of hearing-impaired children. It is being implemented by the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD), in partnership with international funding agency, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Observing are Acting Mission Director for USAID, Rebecca Robinson (centre) and Chairman of the Executive Board of the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, Christopher Williams.