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Embrace sign language—Lazarus Chakwera

CHAKWERA — We need a re-education of our minds

President Lazarus Chakwera has asked Malawians to embrace sign language and accord it the same status as spoken language.

Chakwera was speaking in Lilongwe Wednesday when he presided over the commemoration of the 2021 International Day of Sign Languages under the theme ‘We Sign for Human Rights’.

The President said time had come for Malawians to stop thinking of sign language as a favour to people with hearing impairments.

“That kind of condescension has no place in this new Malawi we are building. We need a re-education of our minds to regard sign languages as a human right.

“Every person has the right to acquire a language from the moment they are born, and that includes sign language for persons born with hearing impairments,” Chakwera said.

He added that the fact that it is a human right is the reason sign language is cited in the Constitution and promoted by other policy instruments.

Chakwera further said he would like to see sign language being adopted everywhere, at every function, and by every institution.

He committed that, in the 2022-23 National Budget, the government would include resources for specialist and sign language training, for the establishment of more resource centres and for renovating existing resource centres.

Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Minister Patricia Kaliati said government intends to train many sign language interpreters who will be assigned to government departments and agencies at district level to ease communication for people with hearing problems.

Malawi National Association of the Deaf Chairperson Stephan Maneya asked Chakwera to consider rolling out many special needs secondary schools in the country from the current secondary school which caters for the whole of Malawi.

Miss Deaf Africa Chimwemwe Kamkwamba said the country’s youths with hearing impairments continue to face challenges in school as well as at home.

Kamkwamba noted that even after finishing school, many employers are not willing to take on board such youths.

She urged Chakwera to speak out on the need for inclusive programmes that should benefit people with hearing impairments.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed September 23 as the International Day of Sign Languages to raise awareness on the importance of sign language in the full realisation of the human rights of people with hearing problems.

According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are more than 70 million people with hearing impairments worldwide.

More than 80 percent of them live in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.

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