The geographies of the schooling experiences of deaf learners at a special school in Swaziland: a narrative inquiry.
Nhleko, Honeydale Njabuliso.
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The focus of the study was to explore the experiences of deaf learners in a special residential school for the deaf in the Lubombo region in the eastern part of Swaziland. The study adopted a narrative inquiry approach, with a total of six participants, comprising of 3 female and 3 male deaf learners. The participants were selected using purposive sampling. Data generation of the study used semi-structured interviews for individual and focus group interviews. The Photovoice method was also used as a means to see through the eyes of the participants. In addition, a participatory research tool was employed to generate discussions in both individual and focus group to explore with the participants their experiences at the schooling context. Triangulation techniques were also adopted. Findings of the study revealed that the deaf learners’ language [sign language] and their culture is not recognized. Some teachers and house parents hardly associate or socialize with deaf children. They have a negative attitude towards the deaf learners. The findings of the study also revealed that the dynamics affecting deaf learners within the residential school context includes disconnect between deaf learners and their parents or care givers; stigmatization; involvement in extracurricular activities such as sports and tours; socializing of deaf learners with peers; and power dynamics affect the decisions such as the curriculum and assessment of deaf learners. The findings further revealed that deaf learners’ education does not receive proper attention in Swaziland. Nothing much is being done in the education system or structure to cater for the deaf learners, but rather continued to cater to hearing learners. This includes the limited use of Sign Language, curriculum and the assessment of the deaf learners. Finally, the findings also revealed that support mechanism for deaf learners could include assistance from house parents in writing assignments. Teachers in the school for the deaf must use Sign Language to teach deaf learners. The people who are responsible for writing the curriculum, examination and other aspects affecting the education of the deaf need to do so within the scope of the deaf culture. In conclusion, the deaf learners in Swaziland do not receive proper attention and provision such as deaf culture, language, relevant personnel, socialization, curriculum and examination. These findings implies that there is a need for Government Ministries, organizations and individuals working with deaf children to develop methods and strategies ensuring that deaf learners are a part of decision making and that their language and identities are valued. Parents for the deaf learners should be engaged as key stakeholders in looking at the future careers and opportunities of their children. Teachers need to dedicate their time and energy to developing the curriculum to enhance the learning for deaf learners. There is a need to allocate enough resource to cater for the needs for the deaf children up to tertiary education. Furthermore, a policy for deaf need to be developed as the existing policy for disability does not provide for the deaf children. Finally, further research can be conducted on the involvement of the adult deaf learners in developing the education of the deaf in Swaziland is necessary.