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Bangladesh’s Deaf School


 The Japanese NGO Study Tour people were kind enough to take my link-heavy e-mails seriously and found Bangladesh’s ‘lone’ Deaf School. (see (1))

Dhaka Association of the Deaf painted on wall at entrance to Dhaka Bodhir HS

They organized an impromptu stop during our day experience with Dhaka traffic. Even though our visit was unannounced Monjura Mamtaz, the Head Teacher (Acting) had us all in her office with a head teacher, spoke about the school and gave us an illustrated book of Japanese Sign Language. The illustrations have both English and Bengali script so it’s fun to compare signs and guess at the cultural images at the root of signs like ‘Japan’ or ‘Thank you’. The sing for Bangladesh is ‘Birth’ (from the side of your mid-section – not as graphic as the Japanese sign) and ‘Land’ (the ‘desh’ in Bangladesh).

Head Teachers of Dhaka Bodhir High School with Bangladesh Sign Language Book

It’s a shame we didn’t have more time with the Deaf students. We exchanged signs for ‘thank you.’ They seemed to know a lot of American Sign, and about Gallaudet too. However the Japanese signs with the different background were of interest. The Japanese for ‘thank you’ comes from sumo winner’s hand motions following the kanji strokes for ‘heart’.  Signs for Monday, Tuesday etc come from the kanji shapes (or meanings) of ‘Moon’ and ‘Fire,’ The students seemed impressed with the kanji characters for moon, and day. I could have spent all day there but felt bad realizing the tour group was already waiting in the van while a few conversations were still going on….

Everyone Knows the ASL I.L.Y. I Love You sign, one of the students helped with the camera

It sounded like they had a lot more students but we had dropped in unannounced and they were in some kind of intense test preparation period. I felt lucky to talk sign language with the teacher and students that were able to gather into a room with us for a time. Like many other places some people were asking the Japanese people about Nagasaki and Hiroshima, how they feel about wandering about with an American. Interesting Questions. Mr. Kawahara, the former journalist, who now dedicates himself to the Asia Arsenic Network’s mission to avoid any more painful deaths from arsenc poisoning, says he’s often asked why Japan is always siding with the U.S. after Hiroshima. He said it’s complicated and too much trouble trying to explain so he doesn’t bother with the conversation. I was thinking the questions of why the biggest and oldest tea corporation in Bangladesh still has the name of a province in Pakistan after the Liberation War, and why the Fay tissues made in Bangladesh are liscensed to someplace in London might make for interesting conversations on the political intracacies in both countries. If not those issues, that I discovered to be curious in the course of 7 busy days, the questions might lead to more substantial issues.

The head teacher was very interested in finding organizations interested in assisting Deaf Schools and Organizations. I went and visited the local deaf organization and paid the 3,000 yen to enter the ‘Friends Association’ for the Japan Federation of the Deaf’s fund from Asian Deaf Friendship. I don’t know if it will every lead to anything specific for the Dhaka Bodhir High School and greater understanding between Japan and Bangladesh… If anyone has any ideas… The Daily Star newspaper article (see (2)) suggested the school could use the assistance that was requested.

(1)

The Daily Star, a Bangladesh newspaper, reports that the only deaf high school in the country, Dhaka Bodhir High School, is struggling to survive. Not only is the school in poor physical condition, it is having difficulty getting enough qualified teachers skilled in sign language. They are often forced to hire teachers who do not know sign language yet. (back) (source)

(2)

In the last 40 years the only renovation the school saw was construction of three rooms a year ago by the government and a donation by Dutch-Bangla Bank for sports facilities of the students.

The school building is so rickety that plasters have come off the ceiling at many places. (back) (source)

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