My name is Safya Hassan, I was born in Somaliland and relocated to the UK with my parents at 14 years old.
Somaliland was part of Somalia until it broke away in 1991. Both Somalia and Somaliland have a similar history and language. Both were colonised by the British until 1960.
I was born hearing but became deaf when I was 5 years old, my parents never informed me how or what caused my deafness. But I am happy with my deafness, and the education level I have now.
During my 11 years in the UK I have visited my native country three times, including last summer.
In Somaliland I have seen the Deaf community having to cope with the lack of development and access to basic services, such as education, health and employment which hearing people take for granted. Their basic human rights have been neglected and there is no known national policy that supports Deaf and disabled people in Somaliland.
During my recent visit, I visited Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, which is in the northern part of the country. I met with Deaf people there and I saw that the Deaf community there have no support from the government, nor are there qualified teachers of Deaf children.
Some Deaf children, who are lucky enough to secure a place at the two existing schools, tend to receive inadequate education, due to a poor learning environment and a lack of qualified teachers. They do not have opportunities to progress to college or university.
Due to widespread poverty in Somaliland, hearing people also have problems but it is Deaf people who fare the worst in the country.
It is estimated that there are more than 2000 Seaf people in Somaliland, however there are only two Deaf schools (Hargeisa School for Deaf and the Badbaado and Development of Education Organisation). Both schools can only cater for up to 60 students and most of them walk long distances to get to school every day. Some children give up going to school due to this distance. Either transport facilities or a boarding school would make a huge difference to many Deaf children who must travel long distances to receive their education, unfortunately none of these options are available there.
I visited both schools and witnessed dirty classrooms, broken furniture and overcrowded conditions. They have only one teacher for many many children and it is impossible for the teacher to give each child attention, or for the children to focus on their learning. The school building itself is in poor condition and has damage to the floors and walls. This poses an unnecessary safety risk to both children and teachers alike.
The Deaf community in Hargeisa is under represented in public life. They do not participate in cultural or national events, mainly due to communication barriers. The government is unresponsive and there are no organisations who support their basic rights, or opportunities.
The lack of education and leadership skills amongst the Deaf community means they depend on hearing people to run their affairs, including the two small Deaf schools which don’t provide adequate education or opportunities for Deaf children.
Despite the existence of two Deaf schools, which provide opportunities for deaf children to network among themselves, they still live in isolation during the holidays as they have no opportunity to meet socially. There are no Deaf social clubs or opportunities to visit libraries or to participate in sports – things that most hearing people take for granted .
During my visit, I also had the opportunity to take part in the Hargeisa International Book fair for the 9th year in a row, which was held in the capital city. Deaf people had never attended this event before, however, when I was there I was determined to encourage Deaf participation. I first requested a SL interpreter and was encouraged when the organisers of the event accepted my request.
I cannot say whether the interpreters were well trained or qualified to do their jobs, however this was a good practice in providing communication support to ensure equal access and participation. I would recommend this practice to both the Somaliland government and to other organisations in the country to make their service accessible to the Deaf community.
For the Deaf community in Somaliland there is no end in sight, or a sense of whether their situation will improve tomorrow or in the foreseeable future, due to lack of policies in place to meet the needs of the Deaf community there.
We live in the 21st century where we would expect development to happen across the world and across every community. Sadly, I am frustrated to see that the Deaf community in Hargeisa and across Somaliland is still underdeveloped and Deaf people have few life chances.
As a Deaf person, I am very motivated and determined to do something to support the Deaf community in Somaliland.
However, I also know that this is a massive challenge, which requires cooperation with other people who have same passion as I do to help others.
I would like to appeal to anyone, who is interested and passionate in supporting the Deaf community, to join me in this mission.
Regardless where you live or whether you are deaf or hearing, if you wish to help or want more information please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together we can help this community to fulfil their potential and achieve their goals and have the best future they can.
Thanks for your time reading my article.
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