The story of ‘soundless’ language and its users

Mahabub Alam Shrabon

Published: February 22, 2024, 05:17 PM

The story of ‘soundless’ language and its users

Communicating in sign language. Photo: TheReport.Live

Since his birth, Jahid Hasan Suman never heard the voice of his mother despite living together. Never did he talk to her either. So, he only depends on sign language to communicate with his mother. In fact, it is the only he expresses his words with all.

Unfortunately, his hearing and speech impairment deprived him of education with “normal” children. So, he was admitted to a school for the deaf in Dhaka. 

This is the story of dozens of children at Dhaka Government Deaf High School (DHDHS) in the capital’s Bijoynagar area. 

Sign languages are the only communication medium for mute and deaf people all over the world, but all the general people are not familiar with it.

During a visit there recently, the reporter found students communicating with each moving their hands and heads. Many were yet to completely master sign language – but were trying to use it.

When questioned about his impression, Suman expressed how he struggles to read, understand and communicate with others.  

His instructor Firoza Begum was clarifying his speech to the newspaper. 

“We are very friendly here in the school. We feel at home here. Still, the method of teaching us sign language is not easy. It needs improvement,” he was quoted as saying.

He, according to Firoza, went on to say, “Some sign languages linked to our lessons are tougher to understand. So, we need an even extern instructor for us.”

Suman’s classmate Md Tushar Abdullah, who is taking this year’s SSC exams, echoing his sentiments, said they find it difficult to prepare their lessons even though their teachers are cordial.

He lamented that their family members do not understand their “silent” language.

History of the school

During British rule, Dhaka got its first school for the speech and hearing impaired in 1914. Some 24 years later, the school formed a club for the community. But both organizations were shut down later.

After that, the East Pakistan Deaf-Mute Association was established under the Department of Social Welfare in 1963. After the country’s independence in 1971, the association was renamed "Bangladesh National Association of Dumb and Deaf" and in 1976, it got another name: Bangladesh National Federation of the Deaf (BNFD).

The DGDHS, which became public in 2016, is the main entity of the Federation.

Achievement and struggles  

Every year, up to 50 students on average sit for the SSC exam from the school. The success rate hovers around 100%. 

There are some personal milestones too. For instance, Md Sirajuddin Rafi is the school first student to travel Russia to join a ramp show and get an award there as the country’s first hearing- and speech-impaired student. 

Firoz Rani, who has been working as an instructor at the school since 2016, said it became easier for her to deal with the students as her parents, too, were hearing and speech impairments.   

“But there is a lack of instructors like us compared to a huge number of students with special needs,” she said. 

“As the students are neglected, we always try to stand by them. We work extra hours for them,” she said. 

Headmaster Md Aminul Islam of the school said their institution imparts the highest and last level of education to hearing- and speech-impaired students.

“After that, there is scope for them to pursue higher studies in the country,” he said. 

Aminul said that many guardians are unaware of the education for hearing- and speech-impaired people. 

On a separate note, he said, “Such education needs to be spread across the country.  Guardians, too, have to be aware of it,” he added.  
As of November 14, 2021, there were 160,352 mute and 82, 031 deaf people across the country. 

According to the BNFD, there were 15 schools of mute and deaf people till mid-November, 2021, while 23 organizations were working under it.

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