Teaching Deaf – A Neo Experience
Somewhere in my heart I always knew that I wanted to take up teaching as a profession. My first experience of teaching was when I taught children of class seventh and eighth in a Government school, located in a rural area. This was a voluntary assignment I took up after my graduation.
In April, 2010, I started taking classes in NDS when some young Deaf students showed willingness to learn accounting software “Tally”. This was my first experience of teaching the deaf. At that time I was very excited and hardly knew where to start from, since there was no structured courseware particularly designed for the hearing impaired. I only had my past accounting experience and Tally books as reference points. Even with these constraints I started teaching them accounting principles, business vocabulary and use of tally software through an interpreter. I used LCD projectors and PPT presentations while teaching in classroom with simple examples so that my students could understand easily. For people who don’t know about the Deaf, Deaf are very curious to know things, like inquisitive children. They want to know about each and every thing they see. They ask questions such as what is this, how it works, how it is different from other things etc.
In the beginning it was very difficult for me to teach them the real meaning of a particular word (words such as Goodwill, Patent, Copyright, Dividend, Depreciation, Liability, Royalty etc.) because their language is Sign Language and there are no particular signs for these words. Also students at NDS come from different backgrounds with varying skills. Since the avenues for education of Deaf have been far and few, they have always been kept away from any kind of formal education. Though that does not mean that these students have some learning disability, they are very sharp and quick learners. Even though my knowledge of Sign Language was limited, they quickly started to understand what I wanted to explain them. At NDS, we use English language to teach and while instructing them I have realized that English is a funny language. Sometimes it is very difficult to differentiate between two similar words like Income and Profit, Receive and Receipt, Account and Accounting etc. Since the vocabulary of these children is not at par with their hearing counterparts they tend to get confused with word types like nouns, verbs, adjectives and synonyms. Most of the children come to NDS from middle class and BPL (Below Poverty Line) families and their parents are not also aware how to handle their child’s situation.
In my current batch of Tally, some students are senior secondary pass and some are graduates but their basic knowledge of English, Hindi, Mathematics and Science is very limited just like a student of class 5. Besides this, their low retaining capacity is one of the hurdles in a quick learning process. For these reasons we have to make an extra effort to teach our students compared to that required for normal students. In the past Tally class was of three months duration, but now that period has been extended to four months. We are now in the process of developing and formalizing a special courseware especially for hearing impaired in Tally which will be of six months duration. After completing this course the Deaf will be in a position to get jobs in voucher punching, data feeding, record keeping, billing or invoice raising, stock keeping and inventory profiles.
Free and compulsory education is birth right of every child, is it only applicable for normal children? If its not true, then why there is no provision of special classes or special schools for differently abled children especially hearing impaired. In India we have few schools in Government sector for these children and these schools are not up to mark in terms of course curriculum, teaching methods, special teachers etc. There is a huge need to build special schools, special courseware for differently abled kids including hearing impaired so that they can grow in every aspect and have all the opportunities just like their other brothers and sisters.
I joined NDS towards the end of 2008 as a Finance, A/c and Admin person after meeting Ruma, a lady firmly dedicated to her mission of empowering this silent community. That was the time when I decided to join her and be part of her mission. I think that decision was one of the good and most important decisions of my life. I learned sign language after joining NDS and am still learning. Even today my signing skills are not so good but I can now easily understand the Deaf’s language and communicate with them.
My first interaction with a deaf person was when I joined NDS. In my decade long career in the development sector, I have worked with various organizations working on different issues. I have worked in rural as well as urban areas but I never got an opportunity to work with a differently abled community. On my first day at NDS I was quite nervous as I did not know sign language and neither did I have any past experience of communicating with the deaf. At that time I felt totally isolated since everyone at NDS was able to communicate well with deaf people, and most of the staff was also Deaf. This has now changed over time.
I will always be grateful to Ruma for giving me this wonderful and challenging opportunity. I really feel honored to get such an experience in my life.