Deaf association advocates for visual arts inclusion in schools


As part of efforts to provide deaf persons with skills to generate income after graduating from school, Sabine McIntosh from the Deaf Association of Guyana Inc. says more educational and language support is needed.

During an interview with the News Room on Friday at the National Art Gallery- Castellani House, McIntosh said the recent Deaf Art Exhibition and Workshop responded to this very issue. She said 20 students from six schools that educate children with special needs benefited from the skills training.

She said although the education ministry has significantly improved its efforts to give Special Needs more priority, the association will be advocating for the inclusion of more visual arts teaching in schools that meet professional requirements rather than low-quality artwork.

“We want to see more art education involved in schools. We’ve been saying that for years but serious art, not this lil poo-poo art where the teacher does something and the child does something and the teachers say, “look how beautiful” and really it’s nothing.

“We want proper art in school along with non-academic activities,” McIntosh said.

She added that the association will also work with these children to develop from simple painting to photography, digital art and graphic art and build their capacity.

McIntosh and a group of persons who share a similar interest in advocating for deaf persons have been part of the association for over 10 years. She said her granddaughter is deaf and she wanted to ensure that there is a community for the now 26-year-old woman to feel included in.

“There wasn’t much done from the government for deaf issues in terms of education, access to work and stuff like that, interpreting services, but our first focus was the visual arts because we immediately felt that is something where deaf youth can excel,” McIntosh said.

The exhibition was a product of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, and the association. It is the first art expo of its kind to be held here and the three artists whose work were on display got an opportunity to sell their work. The expo was held under theme, “Deaf Artistry unveiled: Fostering talent, shaping perspectives” and concluded this week.

“We realise more and more than that we need an advocate and to practically get involved in the issue of education and sign language…Sign language is the first language for the deaf but they don’t learn it like we learn it at home, they are the only deaf baby in that family and there is no modelling taking place.

“Right now, deaf students leave school minimally qualified so they are not qualified enough to access tertiary education and there are no interpreters and they are very poorly qualified to enter the working force,” she said.

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