Contribution of sign language variations to academic performance of learners with hearing impairments in selected copperbelt and Lusaka primary special schools in Zambia

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Chibwe, Juliet
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The University of Zambia
The Study sought to determine the contribution of Sign Language Variation to academic performance of grade Primary School Learners with hearing impairments. Four objectives guided the study; namely: establish the contribution of Sign Language Variation to academic performance of Primary School learners with hearing impairments, examine the factors influencing Sign Language variation, assess challenges faced by Primary School learners with hearing impairments and identify measures that would help address the challenges if any of Sign Language Variation. The sample comprised 50 hearing impaired learners, 30 teachers, 30 parents and 10 senior teachers. Purposive and random sampling techniques were used to select the participants from the selected Primary Special schools of Lusaka and Copperbelt Provinces of Zambia. Data was collected using questionnaires; interview Schedules and the observation checklist. The data collected from the questionnaire was analysed qualitatively using the thematic approach. Descriptive statistics and verbal responses were used to determine the contribution of Sign Language variation to the academic performance. The important finding in the study was that the performance of learners with hearing impairments was affected negatively by the teachers‟ signs which were not the same with the signs used by learners. It revealed that most learners misunderstood the concepts in class that were put across to them in Sign Language. Furthermore, it indicated that most learners did not follow instructions due to communication barrier. In addition, the study revealed that the most important factors that lead to Sign Language variations in schools were: environment, culture, teachers‟ competencies, and the type of training institutions the teachers attended. Furthermore, the study revealed that most of these learners face a lot of challenges at school due to variation in Sign Language used. For instance, during examinations, education tours, and as they play games. Finally, the study revealed that provision of specialist teachers, Zambian Sign Language Dictionaries and the introduction of Sign Language Clubs in schools were very cardinal in addressing these challenges. Based on the findings, the study recommends that Special Schools should increase the number of specialist teachers instead of relying on seconded teachers to teach these learners. The schools should be encouraged to form Sign Language Clubs. Zambian Sign Language dictionaries should be revised and used intensively. More teachers need to undergo special education training in Sign Language. Learners should explicitly be guided in finger spelling, coding, and visual imaging. Parents and caregivers to work in collaboration with teachers to improve Sign Language development.
Language and languages--Study and teaching--Zambia , Sign language--Study and teaching (Elementary) , Deaf--Means of communication. , Hearing impaired--Education--Curricula.