Ghana’s Ministry of Education has finally launched the harmonized Ghanaian Sign Language Dictionary and accepted it as teaching material in schools. The 3rd edition dictionary, which is an initiation of the Ghana National Association of the Deaf in partnership with Peace Corps Volunteers aims at promoting harmonized Ghanaian Sign Language in the country as part of efforts to improve teaching and learning for deaf children and learning of a harmonized Ghanaian Sign Language in Ghana.
There is no denying the fact that local languages play a critical role in the education of young children and in achieving an effective educational outcome. Local languages for example serve as channels for the transmission of culture and knowledge. It is for this reason that in some countries including Ghana, formal education in the first three years of schooling is conducted in local languages.
The same is true for children who are deaf and hard of hearing and whose first language is sign language. For Deaf children, sign language does not only make communication between the teacher and deaf child easy but also serves as a pathway to gain access to, produce and transmit culture and knowledge and participate in family and community life.
The past few years have seen global efforts to promote language access for deaf people. In some African countries such as Uganda and South Africa, sign language is recognized in their national constitutions and or policies. However, in Ghana, sign language is yet to receive such official recognition even though it has been accepted and used in public functions, as a medium of interaction at meetings. One of the key challenges is the absence of a harmonized Ghanaian Sign Language and or the absence of an acceptable learning material that can facilitate harmonized communication and teaching and learning.
It is in recognition of the above that in partnership with Peace Corps Volunteers developed the harmonized Ghanaian Sign Language Dictionary. The work, which spans from 2015 involves the collection of lexicographic data from diverse backgrounds. The final production was done in 2019. Fortunately, the USAID provided funding for the printing of the 10,000 copies of the dictionary and handed it over to the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Services.
Tuesday’s formal launch of the harmonized dictionary by the Deputy Minister of Education made the Ghanaian Sign Language Dictionary a formal document acceptable for use in all government schools in Ghana. The launch also demonstrated the government’s commitment to promoting the teaching and learning of Ghanaian sign language and the use of Ghanaian Sign Language as a medium of communication. This has brought Sign Language advocacy a step ahead.
The GNAD remains grateful to the Ministry of Education, the Special Education Division, Peace Corp, and UNICEF. The association is also grateful to the staff and management of Tetteh Ocloo School for the Deaf and all other honorable dignitaries who graced the launching of the harmonized Ghanaian Sign Language (SL) Dictionary. Sincere thanks to all those whose hard work has brought this GhSL dictionary production to a success. In particular, we thank the Peace Corp shooting and editing team (2015 – 2017). GNAD is thankful to the Ghanaian Deaf models who spent their time modeling for this dictionary. It would never have come this far without you. GNAD truly acknowledges and values your efforts.
Of course, “society can truly be inclusive when persons of all categories can participate and function in such society and that is why the ability to communicate within the society is crucial and significant.