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UNEB needs special examiners

By Vision Reporter

Added 25th February 2002 03:00 AM

“Sign language is like short hand and only a specialised teacher will understand”

“Sign language is like short hand and only a specialised teacher will understand”

Last week, two deaf pupils complained that candidates with special needs are marginalised and are not examined appropriately. Although UNEB gives them an extra 30 minutes, they say they need more. Joan Mugenzi reports. THE results for children with disabilities are not desirable. Many of those who fared well, were in division two. Majority were in division three and four whilst there are those who were not graded, hence in division U. It is not unusual for the best candidate in a special needs school to get an aggregate of 12 or 16. Two of the candidates who sat for their Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) at the Uganda School for the Deaf in Ntinda, rejected their results. The boys, Robert Ronald Kibalama and Patrick David Kafeero, scored an aggregate of 21 and 22 respectively. The boys complained bitterly that candidates with special needs are marginalised and are not examined appropriately. But Eva Konde, the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) public relations officer denied this. “We have special examiners who mark the deaf and blind pupils. On top of that, candidates are given another 30 minutes extra to do their papers,” she was quoted in the press last week. “UNEB has given them an extra 30 minutes but we are saying, these problems are unique. Perhaps in future they should come up with a special examining committee that addresses these problems,” says Joy Mwesigwa, director, Kampala School for the Physically handicapped In her school, where five pupils sat for PLE, the best got an aggregate of 12, three passed in division three and one failed. “One of the boys who sat this year uses his foot to write but he has no control over the movement of the rest of the body. Over time he lost the will and the motive for learning. The fairest would be for him to be examined orally,” observes Mwesigwa. “When we are examining them as a school, we do it according to special needs, unfortunately with UNEB, they are expected to write as normal pupils,” she adds. At the Uganda School for the deaf, there were 13 candidates. Three of them passed in division two with the best scoring an aggregate of 16. Two passed in division three, four in division four and four were in division U. Edmond Musoke, the deputy headteacher of this school, observes that the deaf pupils have a bigger disadvantage. Whereas their understanding capabilities are the same as that of a normal child, the language they use is totally different. “English language and sign language are quite different,” says Musoke. “A pupil can read the English language and understand but he or she will not be able to do the examination in English well. Sign language is basically functional language yet in English, we have both functional and non-functional words like prepositions and conjunctions-words that cannot be used in sign language. It is not easy to explain non-functional words to pupils in sign language,” he explains. “During the school examinations, we try to examine them the normal way but we are in to explain the different concepts, especially words used in different contexts. With marking, when the idea is there but wrongly represented, we give them a mark,” continues Musoke. This is for the school. Examiners for PLE do not interpret questions for them. They believe that the children know how to read but according to Musoke the deaf need somebody to interpret the questions. “Alternatively, they should try to simplify the language. The more the words in a question, the more the child is put off. If possible, they can give them oral examinations,” advises Musoke. In the case of sign language users examining the deaf, won’t there be a temptation to cheat for the children? “Not that they should be interpreting each and every question, supervisors should stand in and help those who don’t understand certain words,” responds Musoke. Deaf pupils who try to perform well like Doreen Sandra Kauma who scored an aggregate of 16, would have become deaf later in life. Kauma became deaf in P3 so she had got the basics of the English language. Mr. Daniel Alenyo, the assistant dean of studies at the Uganda National Institute of Special Education (UNISE), says people should not entirely blame UNEB. “To a certain extent, UNEB has worked hard especially with the visually impaired (blind) pupils,” he says. “UNEB sets questions for these children in Braille and they answer in Braille. Once they get to secondary school, some of them get the opportunity of learning how to type and they can type their answers,” says Alenyo, hastening to add that this is because UNEB has dealt with blind in a long time than any other impairments. However, Alenyo says, UNEB should seriously think of better means of examining other children with special needs. For example, he notes, “Sign language is like short hand and only a specialised teacher will understand the way these children attempt questions. A deaf pupil may write ‘Me go school’ to mean ‘I want to go to school.’ An ordinary examiner in that case will assume that a child does not know sentence construction yet he or she is writing the way they communicate.” At the moment, observes Alenyo, UNEB does not have specialised examiners who are specifically trained to handle the marking. UNEB depends on the goodwill of those who present themselves as trained people to handle children with special needs, and they gladly recognise such individuals. Alenyo’s advice is that policy makers should come in to help UNEB handle children with special needs. “These children need a lot of support,” he says. “Most of these children should not be examined normally. Oral examinations should be considered. We are looking at the potential of these children so we should work at extracting a much information from them as possible.” UNEB’s challenge at the moment is to specifically train invigilators and examiners committed to this kind of examining. “So long as the right procedures are followed, we can be able to extract as much information from these children,” Alenyo stresses. UNEB has consulted UNISE to present a paper on the assessment of students with particular emphasis on disadvantaged children. This will be at a five-day National Assessment conference beginning today at the Nile International conference centre. “In that paper, we are going to outline the challenges that children with disabilities face. These children need an assessment of another step, not only the academic part. We need to look at such children in a holistic manner,” says Alenyo.

UNEB needs special examiners

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