Gallaudet University in an effort to create further awareness about the Gallaudet University in Nigeria tagged “GAIN-Africa” arranged a site visit for the Nigerian government Officials and other Steering Committee members drawn from both the NNAD and Wesley University respectively. This was expected to take place from October 28-30, 2019. Additionally, Gallaudet planned to host the Surviving Change Through Interconnection: African Deaf Ecologies in Transition Symposium Gallaudet October 6-8, 2019 but was also postponed and rescheduled May 17-20, 2020; focusing on the challenges facing African Deaf communities and the important role that relationships between these communities and networks play in addressing such challenges.
The two Deaf NNAD leaders who are also members of the GAIN Steering Committee and the SCTI.ADET2 planning committee are; Mohammed Adelani and Charity James. Two interpreters to work both the SCTI symposium and the GAIN stakeholders visit are Timothy Tinat and Deborah Dangana respectively.
However both events have to be rescheduled to provide enough time for more symposium presenters whose abstract were approved to obtain travelling visas while the site visit was affected by the Nigeria Federal Government Presidential directive suspending foreign travels for Government officials to ensure timely defense and passage of the 2020 budget. The new dates are – GAIN Nigerian Stakeholders’ site-visit, February 5th-7th, 2020 and the SCTI.ADET2 Symposium: May 17th-20th, 2020. However, the Nigerian Deaf committee members and Sign language Interpreters had already obtained travel visa and flight ticket bought for preparation for the two events. It was on this premises that the two Deaf committee members and Interpreters were in Gallaudet from October 14th- November 1st, 2019.
Having presented an interim report of the 1st week of the trip, an executive summary of all activities carried out week in, week out are as follow:
1ST WEEK, OCTOBER 14TH-18TH 2019:- Being 1st week officially scheduled for activities, the committee members were engaged in a form of Gallaudet university campus security tips by the University Police, followed by an introductory cum orientation briefing by Mr. Richie Byant a Deaf interpreter and Amanda Mueller who also doubled as the project coordinator. During the same week, various meetings, round table discussions and observations across various Faculties, Departments and Lecture hall were carried out. The aim of this is to provide the team real experience on various issues of education, teaching and interpreting for Deaf people and learners. During the same week, the team attended the GAIN-Africa round-table lunch/get together which aims to provide avenue for interaction, questions and answers on what the project is all about. During the week also, the team honoured an invitation to a fund raising dinner by the Akwa Ibom Association in DC where two members of the team, Mohammed Adelani and Charity James alongside Prof Khadijat Rashid and Emilia Chukwuma acted as guest speakers on the topic “Our children: helping the hearing impaired”. The fundraising aims to assist Deaf citizens of Akwa ibom State discover and nurture their potentials.
2ND WEEK, OCTOBER 21ST-25TH 2019:- During the 2nd week of the visit, more meetings and observation were engaged in. Among the meetings are; meeting of the GAIN-Africa steering committee with Gallaudet committee members to discuss updates and challenges from NNAD, meeting with the President of the World Federation of the Deaf, Dr Joseph Murray on issue affecting NNAD and Deaf Nigerians, . One of the major activities observed during the week was participation in the Mayor of DC programme for Persons With Disabilities in the DC. The event further stressed the need for proper implementation of the Nigerian Disability Rights Act and the need for continuous advocacy and collaborative effort to achieve this. We also explored areas of collaboration and partnership with the District of Columbia Commission on Persons With Disabilities as well.
3RD WEEK, OCTOBER 28TH-NOVEMBER 1ST 2019:- Being the concluding and rounding up week, activities for the 3rd week includes; final observation, meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President of Gallaudet University to update her and Gallaudet team on the focus of our planned subsequent meeting with the President of the University. Consequently, the team finally met with the President of Gallaudet University, Roberta J, Cordano on Tuesday October 29th 2019. The meeting was indeed fruitful and memorable. The team provided update on GAIN-Africa project for the President, challenges and the way forward, while also appreciating the President and the University community for their collaboration and commitment to issues affecting Deaf Nigerians. The successful organization of the Deaf Women training held in Abuja and the need to sustain the training and expand it to include Deaf youths were also tabled before Madam President who was very delighted at the success rate and promised to ensure that the collaboration is not only sustained, but also extended to the youths through appropriate channels. During the week also, there was a round-up meeting between NNAD GAIN-Africa project Steering Committee and Gallaudet University team where various challenges and concerns were raised and discussed. Among the issue raised is the composition of NNAD National Executive Board which according to them is over-bloated and to which Adelani Mohammed and Charity James replied that it is an issue of Nigeria factor and that they would deliver the message to the Executive for presentation to the house as they have no power on it, being a constitutional issue. After that, the team visited the office of American National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to discuss and explore areas of possible collaboration/partnership and to get a first hand information about the Executive Board structure of the American NAD which seems to confirmed the concern earlier raised on NNAD own. The team also visited the famous Kendal Demonstration School in Gallaudet for first-hand experience and exposure to what early childhood education for the Deaf should look like. An overview of all activities earlier carried out was conducted and coordinated by Amanda Mueller and Rue Winiarczyk for follow-up programmes. Finally, meeting of the Committee on the Surviving Changes through Interconnection (SCTI) 2 symposium on African Deaf Ecosystem, Concerns and Innovations was held to ensure the smooth and successful hosting of the symposium in May 2020 and the companion conference held in Nigeria 2021.
MATTER ARISING:- One of the issues observed and discussed during the visit was the need to foster professional competency of sign language interpreters in Nigeria and effective relationship between NNAD and ASLIN. It was observed from Gallaudet experience that there is the need to ensure cordial working relationship built on the principle of mutual respect between Deaf Nigerians and their Sign Language Interpreters. It was on this premise that the team was mandated to conduct training programme for both Deaf Nigerians and Sign Language interpreters, starting from the National Executives and Zonal coordinators of both NNAD and ASLIN. The training is to be expanded further to all stakeholders from both NNAD and ASLIN in due course. Efforts are on to ensure that the training sees the light of the day.
GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY EXPECTATION: Mohammed, Diyong, Tinat, and Dangana to provide the first two trainings together and as pro-bono. However, NNAD (with possible collaboration with ASLIN) is expected to source funding for the training.
CONCLUSION: The working visit to Gallaudet has been a wonderful and memorable experience for the team. There is no doubt that it would propel the team to do more and improve in their effort to provide service-oriented leadership for both NNAD and ASLIN. At the same time, it was an opportunity to update Gallaudet University on the GAIN-Africa project as well as series of challenges on the project with a view to addressing these challenges most especially in creating more awareness and information dissemination to the general public about the project. It is hoped that all said and done, we will together put all hands on deck to ensure the successful implementation of the project and other programmes beneficial to Nigerian Deaf people.