Namibia: An opportunity to advance Sign Language Education to University Level




Around thirty students at the Windhoek College of Education have chosen Sign Language as an elective subject. This option was offered for the first time last year as a result of ICEIDA´s support to Namibian Sign Language, but ICEIDA´s largest project in Namibia is support to Deaf Education. Around fifteen students are in their first year and similar number in their second year.

Barbara Peters, vice rector of the college and Beau Brewer, Sign Language lecturer visited Iceland last week to familiarise themselves with Sign Language Education in Iceland. The visit was organized with assistance from the staff members of the Communication Centre for The Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SHH). The University of Namibia and WCE are currently merging and a major challenge they are faced with at the moment is to ensure that NSL will be successfully integrated into the university curriculum. Davíð Bjarnason, ICEIDA´s Project Manager in Namibia says that, on the other hand, the merger can be regarded as an opportunity to advance Sign Language Education to the University level. “If these things are managed in the right way, I believe that will happen,” he says.  

“It was extremely practical for us to visit the Communication Centre and other educational institutions in Reykjavík. We now have experience and knowledge that will come in good use when rationalising the importance of Sign Language to the community and University representatives in Namibia,” says Barbara about her visit to Iceland.  

She adds that after the visit, they both realize the importance of Sign Language being offered at the University level and its value for both the Deaf community and for Namibia in general.

Barbara says she will be handing in a report on her visit to Iceland to ICEIDA´s Project Manager in Namibia, the head of the newly established Communication Centre for the Deaf in Namibia, and the Dean of the education department at the University of Namibia.  “I expect the Rector of the University to understand the importance of offering Sign Language as a subject at the University. We will place emphasis on Sign Language becoming a subject within a special theoretical unit, and also for Sign Language to be taught as a subject for interpreters and an optional subject for all students of education,” she says. 

Deaf children all around the world have teachers that have limited or no knowledge of Sign Language and deaf culture and cannot even spell their names with their fingers, let alone share the curriculum with their students. The great interest in Sign Language within the College of Education in Windhoek gives Deaf children in Namibia hope that one day they will have teacher fluent in Sign Language who can share their knowledge and at the same time communicate properly in the classroom. It is the view of all concerned that it is extremely important to ensure the continuation of tertiary Sign Language education as a part of teachers' education in Namibia.