Varsity for the deaf

News that the federal government has reached an agreement with Gallaudet University in the United States for the establishment of a university for the deaf was cheering especially to the physically challenged in the country. The proposed university shall be sited either in Abuja or Sagamu in Ogun State. The Nigeria National Association for the Deaf (NNAD), which broke the news, also said series of meetings were held with the National Universities Commission (NUC), Federal Ministry of Education, National Assembly leadership and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) on the proposed university. Other agencies involved in the meetings include African Development Bank (AfDB) and Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Tetfund.

Promoters of the proposed university said that a visit to Gallaudet University had also been scheduled to take place between October 28 and November 1, 2019. National Vice President of NNAD, Mohammed Adelani, stated on Monday last week during a programme to commemorate the International Day of Sign Language. The event was jointly organised by Disability Inclusive Development, Christoffel Blinden Mission, Inclusive Friends Association, Abuja Association of the Deaf and Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, with support from the National Human Rights Commission and the British Council.

Adelani said Gallaudet University in the United States of America is the only Deaf University in the world; adding that it is the dream of everyone with this challenge to have Gallaudet experience. Many people with hearing impairment in Nigeria and Africa attend the university. He said Gallaudet University is making efforts to collaborate with Wesley University of Science and Technology (WUST) in Ondo State and NNAD to establish Gallaudet University campus in Nigeria so that people with such challenges can have access to its experience of an all-round education.

It would be recalled that the Vice-Chancellor of WUST, Professor Ndubueze Ukachukwu, had earlier this year led a delegation comprising of Gallaudet University and NNAD to solicit NUC’s partnership for the deaf programme in Nigeria. In her remarks during the visit to NUC, the Dean, Gallaudet University, Professor Khadijat Rashid said the institution is a private university, founded in 1864, and that it was originally conceived as a grammar school for both the deaf and blind children. She said that it was the first school for advancing the education of the deaf and hearing-impaired persons in the world and remained the only higher education institution in which all programmes and services were specifically designed to accommodate these vulnerable groups.

The collaborative effort being made by groups, government and Gallaudet University to establish a university for the deaf in Nigeria is commendable. We urge the federal ministry of education, NUC, Tetfund and other relevant stakeholders to support the project. While Section 7 (119b) of the existing National Policy on Education requires government to “equalize educational opportunities for all persons irrespective of their genetic composition, social, physical, sensory, mental, psychological or emotional disabilities”; Section 7 (120a) provides for the federal ministry of education to contribute to the funding of special education programmes across the country. While we do not back the creation of a commission for persons with disabilities as prayed for by NNAD in a recent communique, we support the development of an inclusive and mainstreaming process that would create employment opportunities for graduates of the proposed university. Rather than create a new commission that would strain the already overstretched subheads of government, the department of special education in the federal and state ministries of education could be strengthened to cater for the educational needs of physically challenged persons.

The federal ministry of education should encourage the intervention of national and international donor agencies particularly in the provision of state-of-the-art facilities, materials and other assistance devices that would ensure easy access of the deaf and blind to quality education. We advise that the curriculum of the proposed university should be modelled after the Gallaudet University by broadening its scope to also cater for the blind, making it a university for the deaf and blind.

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