“Man’s default tendency after a successful shot at success is to relax too much and act like that’s all there is- thereby cut shorting his divinely-limitless potentials. Man must possess a capacity for self-elasticity- to be able to stretch, to resize, to rebound, but also to give more, to have more, to gain more, to generate more volume that ultimately accommodates a goldmine”
— By Raji Ade Oba
A small world may it be, but very big things take place in Nigeria’s Deaf community. A small nation it may be, a smaller shape and size it may take among the demographic whole, the Deaf world, in Africa’s most populous nation, is as gigantic as life and as complex as public administration in the United States- the world’s largest democracy.
The level of the dynamics of Nigeria’s Deaf world is very, very fascinating and astonishing.
There are estimated 11 million people with deafness, hearing impairment and other forms of hearing loss in Nigeria. There are hundreds of professional bodies and unions that are associated with Deaf movement and interest, including schools and institutions for the Deaf, as well as special education teachers and caregivers. Over 500 pieces of disability-related laws have been passed and enforced across states in the federation- with more employment opportunities and more inclusive policies for the Deaf and other disability clusters enacted.
And day after day, there’s news and rounds of development about the emergence of deaf political candidates, deaf organizational heads and leaders, including new policies and legislation that are designed to promote the interest of the Deaf and hard of hearing in Nigeria. Our spirits are buoyed by all of these.
However, given this interesting statistics and progresses, including the unprecedented milestones that have been reached by the Deaf world in the country, I am, yet very concerned about the direction of this wonderful community. I have been very worried about the future of the Deaf world in Nigeria. Enormous issues of enormous implications for the average Deaf continue to exist.
For the Deaf world in this region, the stakes are too high.
With measly 43 schools for the deaf to cater for over 1 million deaf pupils and learners with an extremely disproportionate number of special education teachers, there’s too many deaf pupils and students, including “educated deaf adults” who are unable to get an education, unable to read with fluency, and unable to communicate with clarity and politeness. There remain too many divisive cultures among Deaf people- attitudes that have continually kept us at loggerheads with and isolated us from a hearing world for whom the world is largely designed.
We have had a system of education for the Deaf that doesn’t respect Deaf culture nor does it consider, in terms of curriculum and scheme of work, the needs and uniqueness of Deaf learners in juxtaposition with a sea of hearing students. There has not been fairness. There has not been a balance. There hasn’t been leadership when it comes to the social welfare n=and education of the Deaf in Nigeria.
Let alone the widespread mean-spirited behaviours, including aggression and emotional self-indulgence- the PULL-HIM/HER DOWN SYNDROME, the gossips and the trash talking that have become quite pervasive in the Deaf community, our lack of confidence in our own ability to shape our destiny to our potential to taking personal responsibility for our own lives, we have a number of issues that need to be addressed with all gravity.
In this article, I offer a very brief, no-nonsense, populist, and innovative solutions to issues that continually affect us as Deaf in Nigeria. I lay out a synoptic vision for the Deaf world- a world that’s strong, optimistic and founded on values of faith, smarts, hard work, responsibility, self-reliance and respect for all and sundry.
On Deaf people’s emotional self-indulgence. Every man on Earth- disabled or non-disabled, is an emotional being. But the pervasive, over-the-roof, unnecessary outburst of anger and emotion on the part of many Deaf, has been particularly amazing, indeed. But these attitudes and practices have not helped us- in terms of our capacity to work effectively with the world in order that our level of resources and opportunities may shoot up. As Deaf, we need emotional intelligence, self-control and a good dose of self-knowledge.
On Self-concept and Self-efficacy of the Deaf. There is another pervasive internally-stationed attitude in the psyche of the average Deaf in the country. The low level of self-confidence and self-concept in the Deaf world has undermined our capacity to recognize and practice self-reliance, as well as realize the enormous potentials that lie within us.
On Deaf Culture. Deafness is a pride. But deafness is also culture. Deafness is a heritage. We take enormous pride in the use of sign language to exchange ideas and information. We take immense gratification in coming together as persons with remarkable struggles. But it is our language- the sign language that has defined us, that has given us a shared identity. The issue has been that we have put so much stress in the Deaf Culture that we forget that we live in a global village that requires “temperance” and a blend of attitudes and principles to achieve desired goals and objectives.
On Sign language and the Hearing World. Sign language has ceased to be the “language of the Deaf”. Sign language is fast becoming the language of everybody. The Deaf community has not done enough to make the hearing world to come to the realization of why it is of national security matter that sign language be made a national language.
On “Characteristic Deaf Attitude” and Communication. Much of the hearing world- deaf world inclusive- has not found much of the attitude of the Deaf people satisfactory. Anger, aggression, emotional outburst, bitterness, envy and inability to communicate with clarity and politeness- these are attitudes that our Deaf world isn’t better off with.
On the Education of the Deaf. We have an education system that has no respect and consideration for Deaf culture. We have an educational system that is under-funded, understaffed and underequipped for the training of special needs pupils who believe that they also deserve to get an education. No real, innovative solution has been formulated or provided for the most effective way to educate the Deaf in Nigeria.
We have so much to be done in our efforts to make the Deaf world better than we found it. There are enormous Deaf people in Nigeria with immense talents and potentials. We are certainly extraordinary people. However, the realization of individual potentials- as Deaf- would only remain a dream unless we make tough decisions, unless we see and acknowledge the issues that confront us, and are willing to embrace peace, that then leads us to band together to solve the problems that undermine our capacity for upward mobility in a competitive world that is predominantly designed to accommodate the non-disabled only.
The Lord is our strength!