Goal 8 of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals states, “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”, and Goal 16 states, “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. With the current reports of our ongoing Deaf Documentation Project in Nigeria, which is applicable to most African countries, we have been trying to understand what the above two goals mean to a typical deaf adult in Africa. A recent demographic and linguistic survey by Save the Deaf and Endangered Languages Initiative (S-DELI) across deaf communities in Imo and Lagos State, Nigeria show 80% of the deaf adult are unemployed, 86% have only Secondary School education (making them almost unemployable); 1.8% of hearing parents and siblings can sign.
With the above figure, showing a high marginalization of the Deaf, which is a major minority group in most African countries due to high prevalence of congenital hearing loss in children, the question is, how do we build an inclusive society, an inclusive economic growth that includes the Deaf? How do the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals impart on African deaf population? At the British Council organized Language and Development Conference 2017, we should talk about signed language development in Africa through the implementation of Early Intervention Program for children with hearing loss, which is lacking in many African countries, including Nigeria. The underdevelopment of signed languages in Africa and poor literacy development of the deaf population translate into the nondevelopment and continued marginalization of the Deaf. Language, and community development is not complete without the full inclusion of the Deaf. No wonder the WFD launched “Full Inclusion with Sign Language” in this year’s IWD.