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Official Recognition of Kenyan Sign Language

Official Recognition of Kenyan Sign Language

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Published by Jack Owiti
Making of Policy
Making of Policy

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Published by: Jack Owiti on Jun 07, 2012
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Official Recognition of Kenyan Sign LanguageA Submission to the Committee of Experts on Constitution Review
December 2009Contents
 PrefaceSummary of recommendations1.
Background to this submission2.
The Kenyan National Association of the Deaf 3.
The case for official recognition of KSL4.
The legal status of KSL5.
The status of sign languages around the world6.
Routes to official recognition Appendices:
 This paper represents the views of the Deaf Community, Parents, Interpreters and Teachers of theDeaf in Kenya on official recognition of Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) and Tactile for the Deaf-Blind.The paper makes the case for official recognition of Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) and makesspecific recommendations as to what form such recognition might take in the Draft HarmonizedConstitution. It outlines the reasons why the Deaf community is campaigning for official recognitionof KSL and assesses the current legal status of Kenyan Sign Language. The paper also includes abrief survey of measures taken by other countries to recognize their national sign languages andconsiders possible routes to official recognition in Kenya.The paper is intended to assist the Stakeholders, Deaf community members, Interpreters,Teachers of the Deaf, Parents and families in formulating its advice to the government on thequestion of official recognition of KSL.Some Deaf community organizations have expressed the view to the Committee of Experts (COE)and we wish to echo their sentiments and join what is primarily an issue of linguistic rights. KNADwishes to work constructively with the COE to progress the issue of official recognition of KSL as anational and official language. Some organizations wished to make clear that they had hadinsufficient consultation time to be in a position to support the Submission positively, but did notwish this to be construed as not necessarily agreeing with the Submission. Many other member organizations were unable to respond within the tight time-scale available.
Summary of Recommendations
 It is estimated that Kenyan Sign Language is the first and preferred language of between 600,000and 800,000 people in the Kenya. Deaf people who use KSL are united by a shared culture,community and history; KSL is fundamental to their self-esteem and social well being. KNADbelieves that official recognition of KSL would bring clear benefits to many thousands of Deaf people in terms of improved access to information and services. Recognition would also promotebetter knowledge and understanding of the language in society as a whole and formallyacknowledge the status of KSL as one of Kenya's second most widely used indigenous nationallanguages as Swahili.KNAD therefore recommends that the Harmonized Draft Constitution be amended as follows:
Chapter 2 Section 9 - Languages and Modes of Communication
(1) The national language of the Republic is Kiswahili and Kenyan Sign Language(KSL).
(2) The official languages of the Republic are Kiswahili, Kenyan Sign Language(KSL) and English.
(3)The State shall respect, promote and protect the diversity of language of thepeople of Kenya and shall promote the development and use of indigenouslanguages including Kenyan Sign Language (KSL).
(4) The State shall promote the development and use of Kenyan Sign Language(KSL), Braille and Tactile for the Deaf-Blind; and appropriate modes of communication for persons with disabilities.
Chapter 6 – Section 43 -Persons living with disabilities
(d) use of Kenyan Sign Language (KSL), Braille, Tactile, Interpreters and other appropriate means of communication for persons with disabilities.
Chapter 11 – Legislature - 144. Official languages of Parliament
The official languages of Parliament shall be Kiswahili, English and KenyanSign Language (KSL) and the business of Parliament may be conducted ineither English or Kiswahili and Kenyan Sign Language (KSL).
Background to this submission
This proposal was discussed at a meeting of KNAD delegates’ conference on 5
December 2009,to which all member individuals, organizations and stakeholders were invited. This submission isbased on those discussions and on subsequent consultations with professionals, academicians,linguists and lawyers.This submission is a culmination and a summary of issues and position given to the earlier Constitution Review Commission between 2000 – 2006 during which in the draft then KSL was tobe recognized as a national/official languages of Kenya. It should be stressed that Deaf peoplewho use KSL are the majority of the Deaf population in Kenya, a relatively small section of theoverall deaf population in Kenya use Signed Exact English (SEE) which is a is a system of manualcommunicationthat strives to be an exact representation of Englishvocabulary and grammar. It is one of a number of such systems in use in English-speaking countries, which are known
collectively asManually Coded English. SEE is an artificial system that was devised in 1972. It isNOT to be confused with languages, oral or signed; a signed code of an oral language is simply asigned mode of the language it carries, just as a writing system is a written mode. Signed codes of oral languages can be useful for learning oral languages or for expressing and discussing literalquotations from those languages, but they are generally too awkward and unwieldy for normaldiscourse. For example, a teacher and deaf student of English in the United States might useSigned English to cite examples of English usage, but the discussion of those examples would bein American Sign Language. There is a broad consensus among KNAD members that this issue isan important one and that official recognition of Kenyan Sign Language would bring many benefitsto those Deaf people who use KSL.Not all Deaf Kenyans are supporting this submission. Some support the aim of official recognitionbut have reservations on full support due to divergent opinions or lack of information on the nature,use and importance of the language to the Deaf community in Kenya. Others have felt unable tosign up to all of the recommendations made here. A list of organizations supporting the submission is attached (Appendix A).
2. The Kenyan National Association of the Deaf - KNAD
 The Kenya National Association of the Deaf (KNAD) is a legal Non- Governmental Organization(NGO). The organization was registered in 1987 with the government of Kenya under the Registrar of Societies Act of 1968 rule 4. Its membership is derived from affiliated regional association withmembers drawn from the grassroots Deaf community country wide. Originally, KNAD benefitedfrom financial and technical support by the Swedish Association of the Deaf (SDR) through theSwedish International Development Agency SIDA. The relationship between two parties emergedafter a Deaf Swedish couple visited Kenya as tourists in which they recognized and appreciatedthe different needs of Deaf Kenyan community. It is against this background that led to theformulation of the Kenya National Association of the Deaf.Despite capacity challenges, KNAD has partnered with number of donors to achieve its mandatessince its establishment. Several initiatives have been delivered to deaf citizens as a result of thispartnership such as follow:
Establishing 13 grass root branch affiliated associations of the deaf throughoutKenya. ALL use KSL as a medium of communication and interaction.
Establishing a Kenyan sign language development project in liaison with theUniversity of Nairobi Department Of Linguistics headed by one of Africa’s highlyregarded professor of Linguistics Prof. Okoth Okombo
Establishing a secretariat within Nairobi and 3 regional co-coordinating offices inKisumu, Mombasa and Nyeri.
Establishing a deaf women co-coordinating office to cater for the welfare of Deaf women in Kenya
HIV/AIDS awareness to deaf women, men and youth throughout Kenya withsupport from willing donors.

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