Stephen Chadenga

The Midlands State University Language Institute (MSULI) will soon conduct sign language lectures for doctors, nurses and police officers in the Midlands province to help better serve the hearing impaired citizens, an official has said.

MSULI acting director Wiseman Magwa said the institution had been tasked by government to offer such training in the province and later to other parts of the country.

“We have so far been asked to offer sign language training to all nurses, doctors and police officers in the Midlands province,” Magwa said on Monday at the official commissioning of the institute.

“So, very soon we will be rolling out the programme where we are going to offer short courses in sign language to nurses, doctors and police officers in the Midlands community.”

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According to the World Deaf Federation, an estimated 80 000 people in Zimbabwe live with hearing impairments, with the majority failing to access essential services.

Magwa said MSULI’s vision was to be a one-stop world class language consultancy and support services centre, dedicated to the advancement of language research, policy, planning, translating, interpreting and editing.

MSULI has already established partnerships with the Justice and Health ministries, as well as with the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference and Zimbabwe Gender Commission for the translation of various documents into local languages.

MSULI said the institute started as a project in 2018 meant to translate the Constitution of Zimbabwe into 16 officially recognised languages, but was now a fully-fledged institution.

“Soon after its (MSULI) establishment by Senate on October 2, 2018, the vice-chancellor then (Ngwabi Bhebhe) approved the appointment of an acting director, administrative assistant, secretary and 10 language researchers for the year 2019,” he said.

Magwa said seven posts for researchers had so far been filled, with the remainder expected to be appointed by end of the year.

He added that to date, the institute had translated the MSU code of conduct and grievances procedures into Shona, Ndebele and Braille, including brailing important health information for the benefit of the visually-mpaired university students. MSU vice-chancellor, Victor Muzvidziwa said meaningful development could only be realised if the country valued its national languages.

“The French, Germans, Russians, British, Americans, Portuguese, Japanese…. and many other countries have all based their industrial and economic development on the strength of their own languages,” Muzvidziwa said.

He said the recognition of national languages was a key component in building unity, peace and development in the country.

Among other services that the MSULI would offer include brailing services, developing orthographies for indigenous languages, dictionary making, beginners’ courses in indigenous languages, sign language interpretation, translation as well as other language consultancy services. In 2015, the Health ministry, through the Dr Timothy Stamps Trust for Chronic Conditions, embarked on a pilot project to teach sign language to 30 nurses at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.

Although the then Health minister, David Parirenyatwa said the programme would cascade to other parts of the country, it (programme) suffered a stillbirth.