Firstly, there is only one college in the sultanate that has a course with sign language as the medium of instruction. Secondly and most importantly, it offers just one programme, which is business administration.
“Gulf College was the only option after I passed out from the Al Amal School for the Deaf and business administration is the only course it offers,” communicates Musa Maskary, with instructor Hassan Ali Ahmed interpreting his sign language for Muscat Daily. “To add to this, the course was in English and hence, quite difficult to grasp,” Maskary added.
He hopes to find a job that requires his qualification. Hajar al Maktoumy is apprehensive that he may find it difficult to land a job. “It’s going to be difficult, because many think that we are not as efficient as others and also because of problems in communicating.”
Education for the hearing and speech impaired comes with its own set of challenges. Not all schools have a special curriculum for such students. “Although I studied in schools that had special classes for the deaf and dumb, the curriculum was tough to grasp. Students like me should have a special curriculum, starting from kindergarten so that our transition to other courses is easier,” feels Amnah al Kahali, another student at the college.
Amnah says she approached many colleges, but none offered courses in sign language and she had no option but Gulf College. “The programme in business management is tough. The study material should have more visual aids and use technology to make it easier to understand.” She also hopes that students in future get to choose from a variety of disciplines like fine arts, design etc. “It will be better, especially for women, as we will not have to go looking for jobs after graduation.”
Thuraya al Zadjali, another student, says that the idea of higher education for the deaf and dumb is new. “I hope students have courses that also help them deal with the real world. Outside the college, it’s not easy to find an interpreter and we sometimes have to write to make people understand what exactly we want,” she says.
Dr Khalid Abu Zayed, a professor of banking and finance at Gulf College said, “We are the only college that gives such students a chance at university education. The course in business management is suited for their disability. “It is challenging for teachers to translate course materials into sign language, but business management is somehow easy to manage and grasp. These students need help and there is a need for them to study English language in a form of sign language in order to facilitate their university study,” he said.
Dr Taqi al Abduwani, dean, said six years ago the college adopted a strategy to rehabilitate the students and raise their scientific and professional competence through short programmes like in health education, photography, acting, entrepreneurship initiatives, conferences etc. We coordinate with the ministries of Social Development, Manpower, and Civil Service to help them find suitable jobs.”
He said the bachelor’s degree programme helps increase their employability. “We also have training courses in various administrative areas for the deaf already in government and private jobs.”