By T’soloane Mohlomi

MASERU – With September being recognized as Deaf Awareness Month, the Network of Early Childhood Development of Lesotho (NECDOL) in collaboration with the Lesotho National Federation of organizations of the Disabled (LANFOD) commemorated the occasion with Informative fun filled activities at Maseru Club.

Sponsored by both Vodacom Lesotho, and Econet Telecommunications Lesotho through its revered Higher Life Foundation, also in the auspices of the globally observed month in the background of LANFOD’s  launching of a ground breaking digital application helping to asses and mitigate development of disabilities in children, the day was marked with activities aiming to sensitize revellers of the needs and challenges of the deaf and disabled, where NECDOL subsequently advocated for the government to recognize sign language as an official language in Lesotho.

“On behalf of all stakeholders present here today, it is an honour for me to celebrate with you today in recognizing September as the Global Deaf Awareness Month. And to also promote the use of sign language and celebrate the existence of inclusive ECCD’s (Early Childhood Care and Development) facilities in all of Lesotho.

“Education that is inclusive, as per the fourth SDG goal :Quality Education; Ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, which places equal emphasis on teaching learners with disabilities, learners with exceptional capabilities and learners who have emotional behavioural disturbances as a result of abuse neglect or material social depravation. The Ministry’s current focus is therefore on decreasing barriers to education for all children, including those with various forms of disabilities including the deaf.

“To determine how to make ECCD centres more inclusive for children let’s make an example of deaf children, it is essential to provide sign language interpretation services. It is essential to use visual aids like pictures, diagrams and videos. It’s essential to use assistive technologies like hearing aids. It is essential to have trained stuff who are proficient in sign language and understand the needs of deaf children, said Ms Thuto Mokhehle, on behalf of the Ministry of Education.

“Ladies and gentlemen please allow me to remind you that the goal of the Early Child Care and Development is to guarantee that the child develops into a healthy human being by giving them the best possible care, attention, stimulation and guidance as they learn.  I wish to challenge all of you here to imagine how your life would’ve been if you weren’t who you were, what it would be like to not be heard, to not be seen, to not being given access and have decisions made based on your appearance.

“It is therefore very unfortunate ladies and gentlemen that some of our children will not have to imagine these circumstances as they are already living in a world of exclusion which we have created. As a result it our responsibility to ensure we act compassionately and work towards equity and accessibility in all areas of our lives.

“We would like to assure and reassure you that the Ministry of Education and Development Training, in collaboration with our developmental partners, non – governmental organisations and with support from other Ministries will continue to work towards, equitable access to inclusive high quality education, as well as sensitize and mobilise communities to make sure that they enrol all children aged three to five into preschool. Some of our successes are the acquiring of the new inclusive ECCD curriculum guide which is inclusive and play based, which has been in operation since the beginning of this year. We have developed inclusive development tools for five year olds and plan to further develop others for three year olds.

“Special Education incorporated into pre- service stations of ECCD centres at the Lesotho College of Education (LCE), with which some of the teachers are graduating today as we sit here celebrating. To ensure the building of suitable and inclusive facilities for pre-schoolers the Ministry of Education is currently developing infrastructure guidelines.

In addition she said they promise to work even harder to make sure all children have access to class rooms which are conducive to learning and to increase the number of schools which include sign language in their curriculum. She said it could only be possible with support from all stakeholders in order to guarantee that every child has an equal childhood to realize their potential.