Emmanuel Ihechi Asonye
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Over 75% of hearing loss in children (from birth to age 5) in Nigeria is caused by preventable health challenges. Children that become deaf at this age have little or no access to signed language, first because over 95% of them are born by hearing parents with no signed language knowledge, and second, because there is no early intervention program in place to facilitate early literacy acquisition through an indigenous signed language. This population of deaf children experiences language deprivation that results in very poor cognitive development and linguistic incompetence that negatively impacts their lives into adulthood.
In our four years of operation, we have sought to solve the problem of Deaf literacy in Nigeria by addressing the root cause of the matter, which is the promoting Deaf literacy through the indigenous signed languages and the implementation of early intervention program. We are currently creating a huge awareness among deaf and hearing signers, teachers of deaf children, families and legislators, the impact of which includes an increased knowledge of the problem and an increased expectation of the solution, which is the documentation of indigenous Nigerian Sign Language for Deaf education and the implementation of early intervention program for deaf children.
We will document the indigenous Nigerian Sign Language using technology innovation and make the signed language materials available to families of deaf children through Early Intervention program so that deaf children will have access to signed language in the early child development stage. We will also propose legislation for the indigenous Sign Language to be used in Schools for the Deaf across the country in place of the current Signed English version that hardly represents the culture of Nigerian deaf community. Our documentation materials will be made available online, in hardcopy materials and in softcopy applications such as phone memory cards, CDs, etc.
The documentation of Indigenous Nigerian Sign Language vis-a-vis the documentation of Indigenous Africa Sign Languages using technology innovation and distributing the documentation materials to deaf children and families is the hallmark of this project. Collaborative supports from governmental and non-governmental bodies is important for the sustenance of this project, With adequate funding in place, the project will be replicated to all African communities, where foreign signed language is in use instead of the indigenous.