KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - The sense of hearing plays a critical role in human life, affecting man’s psychological and social development and his acquisition of general and academic knowledge. And when Allah The Almighty deprives a certain human being from the sense of hearing, He equips this human being with additional capabilities far more greater than other humans with perfect and healthy senses.
The world of the deaf and dumb is indeed an obscure world, not known by many. And despite their presence among us, we often look down upon them and view their sign language as a source of fun. This often prompts the deaf and the deaf-mute to live in isolation from the society and until very recently families had tended to isolate their deaf-mute members out of embarrassment from their unusual condition.
The Sudanese National Society for the Deaf had come into being after its founder, the renowned Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist Dr.Taha Tala’at noticed the degree of frustration and suffering families felt when they received a deaf or deaf-mute baby. Upon Dr. Tala’at’s initiative a group of good citizens from the different walks of life gathered together in 1970 and drew up a road-map towards a comprehensive attention to this category and its families. The society then obtained a license in 1971.
In an interview Dr. Tala’at spoke at length to Sudanow about the society, its progress, what it had done for this category, its achievements, its contributions at both the national and international levels and its future plans. Says Dr. Tala’at:
Ever since its inception the Society had worked seriously, achieving too much and looking ahead for more and more achievements. We have passed a lot of sufferings and we still have a long road to go, with Allah’s help and support.
In its first year the Society established the first-ever school for the education of the dumb in Sudan. That was al-Amal (hope) Institute (Number One). In 1972 the Society launched the first club for adult deaf-mute citizens, after we noticed that some persons with such a disability meet together at a coffee shop in a remote corner of the Khartoum Arabi Market, while others had nowhere to go to, suffering aimlessness, ignorance and negligence that entail unemployment, depression, addiction and other forms of waywardness. The club was meant to be a place for recreation and education where the member can spend part of his leisure time, demonstrate his talents and communicate with his community. The society was able to launch another 14 literacy centers in affiliation to the al-Amal Institute. In addition to literacy education, these centers also teach general knowledge and other subjects that eventually propelled some of the students to the universities.
The Society spent the period 1985-1990 in the collection of Sudan’s deaf signs from their original sources. A committee comprising the American priest Garth Cedrik Heulen and Ms Wehda Shareef then sorted out and edited these signs into the first dictionary of Sudan’s sign language. Father Garth, who is graduated with a B.A in secondary school education, came to Sudan in 1984 to work in the education of the deaf and became member of the Society. Due to his mastery of the American Sign Language which he studied after adopting a child with this disability, Mr. Garth was asked to work with the coordination committee set by the Society in 1982 to work on Sudan’s sign language. He finally crystallized an integrated basic curriculum for the Sudanese sign language that graduated its first qualified batch in 1990. Mr. Garth then trained the majority of the Society’s sign language interpreters. He continued with his effort in this field until he finally issued Sudan’s first sign language dictionary in 1994. He has published a number of articles on the code of conduct for the sign language interpreters, the communication of music to the deaf and others.
The Society has managed to set 14 institutes for the deaf-mute around the country and has 22 branches nationwide. In 2004 the Society established Sudan’s first secondary school for the deaf (males and females) for further educating the graduates of its institutes. Some graduates of this school have graduated from the universities, in particular the Sudan University For Science and Technology. These graduates have obtained degrees in fine and applied arts and engineering, among other practical sciences.
In 1993 the Society launched a theatre for the deaf-mute under the supervision of actor Mohamed al-Sunni Dafa’alla which was followed in 1995 by the launching of the theatrical troupe for the deaf-mute under the guidance of outstanding Actor, Lecturer of Drama, Dr. Abdelhakeem al-Tahir, who in association with Ms. Afaf Mirghani, managed to take this troupe to the international youth theatre festival in Bilbao, Catalonia , in Spain, where it won the first prize for the play Tanowit Amani that represents a struggle between the God and the monks. The troupe also won the festival’s prize for solo acting.
A vast number of the Sudanese deaf and deaf-mute had assumed progressive positions in the civil service and post-graduate education, including a deaf-mute female serving at the Attorney General’s Chamber who represents the deaf in international forums, drafting laws for the welfare of this category. Another outstanding example is a deaf-mute lady who obtained an M.A in adult education. This lady has invented a soundless bell for the deaf that signals time through a flash of light, obtaining an international patent for this invention. Many of the Sudanese deaf have obtained both local and international awards in the different domains, including drawing and painting. Some of these young men and women have collected prizes in poetry recitation and story and novel writing, in particular from the Qatari society for the welfare of the deaf. Some Sudanese deaf citizens had recently taken part in a contest for the maintenance of mobile phones, collecting the top prizes.
The deaf are excellent in repairing electric appliances, in refrigeration, computer programming, car mechanics and in accounting. The Coca Cola Company has employed a big number of the deaf to watch impurities in its bottles as they go out for distribution thanks to these men and women’s careful eyes.
The Sudanese deaf have set their own football teams and teams for weight lifting and other athletics, which managed to collect gold medals.
Some Sudanese deaf couples had set successful marriages.
Through the national league of the deaf and the female league of the deaf, the Society had set workshops for handicrafts and other workshops for iron works, electricity, carpentry, handmade textiles and electronics in addition to a computer laboratory for the deaf community in general and for the students of its secondary school in particular.
The Society organizes an annual celebration of the Sudanese and Arab deaf, a demonstration attended by representatives from all over Sudan where the deaf come forward with their families to attend the event and display their products. The Society also organizes training courses on the Sudanese, Arab and international language of the deaf and presents cultural and religious lectures. It organizes literacy and first-aid courses as well as training courses for teachers of the deaf-mute both inside and outside the country (Syria, the U.K, Jordan and Egypt).
The Society has established the Adeela Center Khartoum Number 2 neighborhoud for early intervention to care for the deaf and the deaf-mute children and train them on communication. It also organizes programs for hearing planning, hearing measurement and intelligence measurement for children in the Taha Tala’at Center For Comprehensive Interaction with the Deaf.
Ever since 1991 the Society had strived to launch a union for the deaf-mute and to encourage and support the deaf-mute organizations. The union is the oldest registered such organization. It has managed to continue regardless of the economic, political, security and health problems the country had faced. It has managed to join the World Federation of the Deaf two years after its inception and obtained membership of the Arab Federation of the Deaf in 1976.
The Society has managed to introduce education of the deaf in Sudan through the preparation of teachers and through the authentication of the Sudanese sign language. It issued Sudan’s first dictionary of this language in 1994 and the second one in 2002. It produced a film for communication in 1994. It had published articles, launched an Arabic-English website and issued its first version of its magazine al-Amal Wal Tahaddi (hope and challenge) in September 2011.
The Society is receiving encouragement and backing from the Swedish Society of International Child Welfare, the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Social Affairs, Arab Federation of Organizations Working with the Deaf, the Arab Organization for Education, Culture and Sciences and the Sudanese teachers at large. This support had encouraged the Society to proceed with a big project which is establishment of the Sudanese Academy For Disability Studies.
The Society is run along democratic principles and all its membership is elected and works on voluntary basis to achieve the goals stated in its basic statute.
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