Perceptions of sign language among teachers in schools that enroll deaf children in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe)
Keywords:Perceptions, Sign language, Deaf children
The study set out to establish and analyse how teachers in schools that enroll deaf children in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) perceived Sign language. A sample of 30 specialist and 30 mainstream teachers participated in the study which utilized descriptive and comparative survey designs. A Self-Designed Sign Language Perception Thematic Scale was used for data collection. The data were summarized into tables and analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. The results indicated that teachers in schools that enroll deaf children in Bulawayo were aware that Sign language is the language for deaf children but perceived it as difficult to learn/teach and as a set of gestures which could only be used for expressing simple concrete ideas. The teachers were also not fully aware of the official status of Sign language. From the findings, it was also clear that the teachers did not appreciate the native and natural status of Sign language and were not sure whether it has its own proper grammatical structure which is adequate to express abstract ideas. A Chi-Square analysis confirmed these results but showed that despite findings to the contrary, specialist teachers perceived Sign language more positively than mainstream teachers. The main conclusion from these results was that deaf children in schools in Bulawayo were not exposed to the full linguistic structure of Sign language and were consequently denied development of their Deaf culture. This compromised their education. On these bases, the study recommended staff development of teachers, establishment of Sign language resource centers, and harmonization of policies with the new Constitution and a similar but in-depth study of a national magnitude.
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