In North Western Province, several stakeholders have conveyed disappointment in response to Parliament’s decision to reject a motion advocating for the introduction of sign language and Braille writing as optional subjects in all public schools. The motion aimed to address communication barriers for individuals with visual and hearing impairments.
Simona Mubiana, Assistant Provincial Coordinator of the Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities (ZAPD), expressed his dismay, terming the motion as progressive and potentially beneficial for the nation. He proposed that the government should reconsider and make sign language a compulsory subject, integrated into the curriculum from Primary to Secondary Schools.
“It is unfortunate that members of parliament have rejected a motion that could have helped to address the communication barriers that exist among the visually impaired, people with hearing impairments, and abled individuals in the country,” remarked Mr. Mubiana.
He emphasized that the rejection of such a motion indirectly promotes inequality, contradicting Zambia’s 2023 vision of becoming a prosperous middle-income country without leaving anyone behind. Mubiana referenced Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 10, emphasizing the need to reduce inequalities through deliberate policies and programs.
Supporting the motion, according to Mr. Mubiana, would have facilitated more effective communication, enabling the future generation to express themselves without depending on interpreters. He expressed concerns about the existing communication barriers, particularly in public service sectors like health, where reliance on interpreters can lead to violations of human rights ethics regarding confidentiality.
Mr. Mubiana urged the church to invest in and incorporate an interpreter’s department to accommodate all congregants, including those with visual and hearing impairments.
Setty Maseka, the Provincial Organizing Secretary of the Zambia National Union of Teacher (ZNUT), shared the sentiment of disappointment. He stressed that the rejection is not only a setback for individuals with hearing and visual impairments but for the education sector as a whole.
“Sign language and Braille writing play a significant role in fostering inclusivity by providing communication accessibility to individuals with hearing and visual impairment,” noted Mr. Maseka.
He implored the National Assembly to reconsider the motion, emphasizing its potential benefits in promoting inclusive education and ensuring that no one is left behind. Last Wednesday, Acting Minister of Community Development and Social Services Rodney Sikumba argued that the motion could not proceed, citing the government’s prior introduction of Braille and Sign Language as optional subjects in the Zambia curriculum framework of 2013.