The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa has highlighted the plight of the deaf community and tasked the government to provide social protection, economic empowerment, and education programmes that directly support persons with disabilities.
The Deputy Speaker who pledged to become “a full-time partner of the deaf community and an advocate of the persons with disabilities” was speaking as the chief guest yesterday at the 50-year celebration and fundraising gala of the Uganda National Association of the Deaf at Mestil Hotel in Kampala.
“How come we build for others and when it comes to the deaf and other PWDs, we sit privately and fundraise? Aren’t they not taxpayers? Are they not Ugandans? The Deputy Speaker wondered, adding that: “As a government, we must put money in the budget to support the deaf community and other people with special needs.”
He added: “We need at least one school per region to bring service closer to our people with disabilities… Education is the number one pillar that can open opportunities for anyone in the world. The moment you’re educated, the gates of opportunities are open.”
The Deputy Speaker promised to arrange a special meeting with the Education Minister, Mama Janet Museveni, the Uganda National Association of the Deaf and all the MPs representing PWDs, to among others discuss special needs education challenges and the skilling center for the deaf.
According to statistics from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Uganda deaf community has a total population of about 1.2 million persons, representing about 3 per cent of the country’s total population with more than 90 per cent of adults suspected not to have been to school at all, highlighting a crisis that needs urgent attention.
In last year’s released Primary Leaving Examination results, a total of 2,257 pupils with disabilities sat exams and those with hearing impairments performed poorly. Out of 263 pupils who sat PLE, none passed in Division One. Only 50 pupils managed Division Two, 41 in Division Three, 56 in Division Four and 116 pupils were ungraded. The UNAD blames poor funding and lack of access to sign language teachers as the main cause of the poor performance.
The Deputy Speaker promised to follow up on all the issues raised and described the 50th anniversary as “a very beautiful story and in a special way thanked the development partners and all other stake holders in the private sector for supporting PWDs and reminding the government about “the deep and underlying potential of the deaf community that we had not known about.”
“We need to put in place all the necessary measures and regulations that cater for the needs of the deaf and other people with disabilities… I pledge to work with the relevant ministries to ensure effective implementation of the disability act” the Deputy Speaker said as he thanked Hon Alex Ndeezi for the invitation and the MPs for people with disabilities for doing “a great job in Parliament.”
During the Deaf Awareness Week, marked under the theme “Building inclusive Communities for all: Uganda sign language unites us”, the Minister of State for Gender, Labour and Social Development (Disability Affairs), Hon. Hellen Asamo, urged Parliament to support the Ministry of Public Service to have all public institutions staffed with sign language interpreters, for meaningful inclusion of the deaf community at work.
“The recognition of sign language as an official language in the Constitution of Uganda is important for the inclusion of the deaf people in Uganda’s Vision 2014 and achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda of leaving no one behind,” the Minister told Parliament last year.