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31 Students Graduate from Sign Language Short Course at Zimbabwe Open University

In a recent graduation ceremony which took place on the 12th of December 2023, 31 students were awarded certificates for successfully completing a sign language short course at the Zimbabwe Open University Corner House Building. The course, which took place from 2 December to 12 December 2023, was led by Professor P. Mutswanga. The students were organized into three groups based on their proficiency levels: Basic Sign Language, Intermediate Sign Language, and Advanced Sign Language.

The main objective of the course was to provide the participants with a comprehensive understanding of sign language theory and its practical applications. By the end of the training, the students were expected to achieve a number of specific goals.

Speaking at the ceremony, Professor P. Mutswanga said that, “during the course, the students developed a clear understanding of sign language and Zimbabwean Sign Language (ZimSL). They were able to identify the parameters of sign language and demonstrate their knowledge of the underlying theory”.

Practical sign language skills were also a focus of the course. The students were taught how to sign the alphabet and numbers, fingerspell, interpret and translate ZimSL, and communicate effectively through sign language and speech reading. Singing in ZimSL was also incorporated into the curriculum, adding a musical element to the students’ language development.

Another important aspect of the course was the exploration of deaf culture and its significance within the community. The students learned about the Deaf community, which prefers a disability-first approach and uses sign language as their primary mode of communication. They also gained insight into various aspects of deaf culture, such as the use of hand shapes for numbers and letters, as well as the role of facial expressions and body movements in communication.

The course also addressed the management of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The participants learned how to provide support and assistance to this group, including the importance of keeping ears clean, early intervention, and selecting the most suitable mode of service delivery. The use of assistive devices, such as hearing aids, was also covered, along with the significance of inclusion and creating an environment that supports individuals who are deaf. Additionally, the course provided valuable insights into the management of people with epilepsy, autism, and visual impairments. The students were educated on identifying triggers, creating a safe environment, and offering appropriate support to these individuals.

The sign language short course at the Zimbabwe Open University was a resounding success. The 31 students showed exceptional growth and achievement in their sign language skills and theoretical knowledge, thanks to the expertise of Professor P. Mutswanga and the dedicated team of instructors. With their newly acquired skills, these graduates are now able to teach and train others in ZimSL, take a leading role in promoting the teaching and learning of sign language in Zimbabwe, and contribute to fostering inclusion and effective disability management. The graduation ceremony marked a significant milestone for these individuals, and the Zimbabwe Open University Administration extends its heartfelt congratulations to each and every one of them.