Only Class for Teaching English to Deaf and Mute Threatened with Closure

Yemeni American News  

Ibrahim Jahoush


Ibrahim Jahoush, who has lost his hearing  wakes up to an impossible mission:  Teaching English to the deaf and mute in Yemen.  He himself has gone through much  to learn English.  He was confronted with an untold number of obstacles to keep pace with his peers of normal students and make it from one level to the next.

Ibrahim recalls:  “I still remember that I went to Amideast and met a lady named Debby.  This lady guided me to the links of the sites for teaching English to the handicapped with muteness and deafness and also sign language in foreign languages.  She also advised me of the websites that especially help the deaf and mute to pass the TOEFL exam.   I began to focus on this point.  My ambition became to help the deaf and mute learn the English language.  Currently, unfortunately, the TOEFL for people with special needs is unavailable in Yemen.  However with continued efforts we will hopefully reach this objective.”

The hardships faced by Ibrahim made him think of those young kids similar to him, who are deaf and who desire to improve their abilities and become proficient in English.  Thus, he presented to the management of Yemen America Language Institute (YALI) a proposal to set up an English learning class to cater to the deaf and mute and meet their special needs:

“At first”, relates Ibrahim, I presented the idea to Yali’s management and told them, ‘will YALI accept to admit deaf students to study English’”.  They replied that no they cannot accept deaf students.  Then I asked them, “How come you accepted me then and I am deaf?”  They replied, “You are an exceptional case”.  I then told them there are others like me among the handicapped and some are even better than me. They then requested that I present a program to consider for this special course.  So, I prepared an English language learning program suitable for the deaf and mute.  The proposal was presented to the Academic Management, the program was approved for a trial semester/term.  We then set up a trial learning term and achieved remarkable success.  Even YALI’s management never expected that the deaf and mute were going to be able to understand”.

Ever since this special course started deaf and mute students flowed into this special YALI program by the scores.  They were all determined to overcome their handicap with great enthusiasm and determination, and thus enhance their ability to mould into society.

Ibrahim continues, “The Special Learning Program for the Deaf and Mute was different and especially designed for them.  It makes learning simplified and suited to their needs.  They find no difficulty with the program and soon after a while they are merged with their fellow normal students”.

What about deaf and mute female students?.

“Girl students actually constitute the majority of the learning program for the deaf students.  You might even reverse the question and ask, are boys admitted into the program?  This is because most of the appliers for the program are females”.

What are some of the obstacles faced in teaching the deaf students?  Ibrahim states, “My experience with them as a teacher there is one obstacle that prevents my communications with them.  This is especially with respect to women.  The veil places me in an embarrassing position, as the program I concocted entails having to touch the neck to communicate; i.e. learning by reading the lips and deciphering by means of touching the vocal chords to get the voice rendition.  In the case of the veiled ladies I have to bring in a female teacher or volunteer to carry out this task”.

Another problem told by Ibrahim:  “The teachers teaching the normal curriculum do not have the slightest idea of the ability of the deaf students to absorb and thus treat them as they would any other normal students.  The deaf student requires twice the time to understand and more hours”.

We were told that the this is the only course of its kind in Yemen and now it is threatened with closure, because it lacks support from any private or public entity.

There is not any government entity that supports us except the Handicap Fund.  This Handicap Fund support has also stopped because of the war situation.  We were threatened with closure due to the halt of aid.  We, the young people and a number of professors from Sana’a University then took the initiative of setting up a charitable  bazaar to save this special course for the deaf and mute.  We were able to cover some of the costs.

We also tried to contact the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and I asked them give special courses for teaching English to the deaf and mute.  However they just said they will consider the matter and study it, after the situation is stabilized and the war is over.  I get a lot of requests from other governorates from those requiring special needs who want to study English.  However,  and unfortunately, we are unable to absorb them, because there is only one class available now and for only ten students.   The cost of one student to take the course for learning English for a year broken down  to ten terms is as high as US $ 650.  There are also audio and visual learning aids.

Finally, I thank the “Yemeni American” newspaper which turned its attention to our case and presented our suffering to the public.  My hope is that after this interview, we can continue with the course to teach English to the deaf and mute and thus lighten the future for this special group of people.