Sign Language: My voice, my words and my sword
Girls from Buea School of the Deaf (BSD) tell their stories on how they have found empowerment through sign language.
This year, I awarded prizes to some four girls from Buea School of the Deaf. The awards were based on contestants’ ability to narrate a personal experience where they felt disempowered and how they managed to overcome the challenge[s] and gained empowerment.
Of all the essays submitted, they all shared that power of communication which they now have, that voice, passion and education empowerment as well as a motherly love which has forever been an inspiration, also stood out so strong in the essays.
Winners of the prizes were: Alison Naomi (winner 1st Prize); Angela Anyinkeng Abina (winner 2nd prize); Zipporah Ewenye (winner 3rd prize) and Mukoko Sandra Namondo (winner 4th prize).
For the purpose of this article, I have chosen to publish Alison Naomi’s story. In her own words, she tells her story for change; how she overcame the trauma of finding out that she lost the ability to hear and gained empowerment.
“I became deaf in 2006, I was in primary three.” This is how Alison introduces her essay: “The whole thing started with a fever and my mum took me to the hospital. We stayed there for several days, and returned. One day that was in the early morning I just realized that I couldn’t hear. When I tuned on the TV, yet couldn’t hear a thing. At first, I didn’t take it so seriously. I felt like it was a trick – though I saw people talking but I couldn’t hear them. That same day, I remember taking a walk on the street and yet, I couldn’t hear a noise. Once my mum realized that I couldn’t hear, she took me to the hospital. The doctor did some test on me and found out that I was deaf and couldn’t hear. When my mum shared the news with me, I was depressed, traumatized and stressed.
I wiped and wiped. My mum also joined me to wipe.
Each day, I will asked myself; “Who am I?” “Why am I so helpless?” and each time, I think of my situation I shade tears. I tried to accept my fate but couldn’t. I even struggled with myself to ignore my situation and to forget who I was; still, it wasn’t that easy.
In school, during break time, my friends will join me in crying – they too couldn’t believe I will never hear their voice. One day as I was crying, my teacher called me – she tried to advise me, not to worry so much. She made me understand that I am not the only deaf person on this planet. That I can still be whatever I want to be – regardless of my hearing impairment. She told me to be brave. I kept her advice though I still felt like isolating myself from all of the hearing people. I wanted to be somewhere lonely. I even asked my peers if there knew of any lonely world where I can go there – but none could give me a satisfactory answer.
Time passed and things changed. I started appreciating myself. Liking who I am. And whenever, my mum would burst into tears, I would tell her not to worry. That I am fine and I feel able to do anything, a human being can do. For instance, I made her to understand that I could lip-read and communicate with hearing people, I can dance, I can even sing like any other person – (and by the way, I enjoy dancing. I can dance all day). I made my mum understand that I am FINE! So crying wouldn’t help – I recollected my teacher’s advice to my mum: Be Brave and be proud! When I told my mum these-she was so impressed at me. She smiled so loud and hugged me. She even promised me that she won’t cry anymore. But for sure, I know no word can stop a mother’s tear, no word can express a mother’s pain nor heal a mother’s broken heart”
All that time, I was still in the normal hearing school – it wasn’t easy to get myself fully integrated but I tried to study and understand what our teachers were teaching. One day, a teacher advised my mum to take me to one deaf school, and that was Buea School for the Deaf (BSD) and that there; they will teach me how to communicate in sign language.
The moment, I entered the campus of BSD; I noticed that everybody was a deaf. I couldn’t believe that I was seeing many people other than myself, deaf. I was happy to see them all – boys and girls of my age – from that moment; I knew that was a home for me. I knew I had found my sisters and brothers who can understand my pain and share with me. I could also tell that my future was secure and safe. Now, I can follow my dreams.
While at BSD, I was taught how to communicate with sign language. I was also taught the general education which every hearing child is been taught. And in addition, I was taught my own first language – sign language. Years after, I wrote my First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) and I passed. Now I am in form four, next year, I will be writing my O’L GCE. And I pray that very soon, there should be a college, university for the deaf in Cameroon or some sort of scholarship programs for us to advance our education.”