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DEAF IN NIGERIA: A PRELIMINARY SURVEY OF ISOLATED DEAF COMMUNITIES

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DEAF IN NIGERIA: A PRELIMINARY SURVEY OF ISOLATED DEAF COMMUNITIES

 

 

Abstract

Deaf stigmatization in Nigeria begins from the families to the kindred and communities and is more intense in the early days of the deaf child. Using a multidisciplinary approach aimed at collecting different forms of data in Nigerian deaf communities, we focused on cultural practices, linguistic features, and the cause of hearing loss in some of the undocumented deaf communities. Findings from the ongoing research indicate that up to 75% of the deaf children and young adults within our study areas were not genetically born deaf. Different health complications, poverty, and ignorance contributed to childhood deafness. We also identified specific cultural traits of deaf students in Abuja and Imo—late start to school because of nonexistence of early intervention program. Finally, the signed language used by the students in Abuja and Imo had differences and similarities with American Sign Language (ASL) and Ghanaian Sign Language (GSL). The similarities between ASL, GSL, and the school signs are through the impact of ASL on the linguistic structures of most African signed languages and the differences is caused by geographical locations and specific cultural and educational information. Based on the data, we suggest that a more detailed approach to early childhood hearing screening and intervention programs is necessary to mitigate the impact of deafness in Nigeria. We recommend that a study of the school signs and culture of Nigerian deaf communities will provide accurate data for signed language documentation and future linguistic research, cultural and health interventions within deaf communities in Nigeria.

Keywords

Nigerian sign language, documentation, early intervention, deaf students, linguistics, language studies, humanities