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General News Mon, 12 Jul 2010

University of Ghana holds first sign language and linguistics conference

Accra, July 12, GNA - Professor Kwesi Yankah, Pro-Vice Chancellor of University of Ghana (UG), on Monday, blamed the poor academic performances of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) on the unfair inadequacies in the educational system.

He said the inadequate provision of special training needs at the basic levels of education, had created a huge gap between PWDs and other students as far as academic performances were concerned, leading to yearly failures among majority of the disabled.

Prof. Yankah made the observation when addressing the opening session of the First Sign Language and Linguistics Conference in Accra. The conference jointly organised by the Department of Linguistics and British Council was under the theme: "Deaf Education and Empowerment: The Role of the University; Past, Present and Future". It sought to consolidate efforts by the University to deepen the study of sign language through networking with similar institutions in the United Kingdom and Uganda, to enhance teaching and learning for the disabled.

Prof. Yankah underscored the importance of ensuring higher education for PWDs, especially those with hearing impairment, and indicated that available statistics on results of examinations conducted at the primary and second cycle institutions had over the years shown poor results of persons with hearing impairment, compared to those with other forms of disabilities.

"This inhibits their potential access to higher education in Ghana therefore training of more professional sign language teachers is important and not just teachers for PWDs in general", he added. Prof. Yankah noted that the number of physically challenged students had increased over the years from a handful to close to 80 in the past few years, and the University was still exploring ways of improving accessibility of tertiary education for PWDs through enhanced physical infrastructure such as the provision of appropriate academic and technical infrastructure.

He said the University authorities had not only opened their doors without discrimination, but had adjusted the academic and infrastructural facilities to suit the disabled, especially those with hearing impairment, by including the sign language in the curriculum of the Department of Linguistics.

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Prof Yankah said, "as a public institution, we may still have a long way to go, and would probably need a thorough structural audit of our physical infrastructure to determine the extent of our compliance, but I can assure you that all new buildings contracted by the University authorities are by policy expected to be disability compliant".

He said the authorities would soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with authorities of University of Central Lancashire in the UK and Kyambogo University in Uganda, as well as the University of Education, Winneba, to formalise the exchange of visits between teaching and technical staff and possibly embark on collaborative research.

Prof. Yankah expressed appreciation to the British Government for assisting the University's sign language project. Dr Kwabena A. Poku, Coordinator, Office of Students with Special Needs, UG, affirmed the widespread low academic achievement among students with hearing impairment, inhibiting their potential access to higher education in Ghana.

He described the difficulties faced by these students and observed that the educational system in Ghana for students with hearing impairment, appeared to have created and perpetuated their dismal performances considering the fact that their Intelligence Quotient (IQ) range were about the same as that of their other physically impaired counterparts.

Dr Poku called for accountability through the educational system for academic outcomes among students with hearing impairment in Ghana. 12 July 10

Source: GNA
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