Shreen Hussien: Jordanian Deaf Role Model
Published: Feb 11th, 2013
Shereen is the first Jordanian deaf woman to graduate from University with an MA. She shares her story with Deaf Unity.
Jordan is an Arab country located in Southwest Asia. The official statistics from the Higher Council for People with Disabilities show that Jordan has 30,000 Deaf people; however, official statistics can be difficult to come by in Jordan, and they are not always reliable.
The Ministry of Education has established 13 Deaf Schools and it is thought that currently around 50% of deaf children receive primary education. However, this figure drops to 0.2% of deaf children who receive secondary education. There are no studies or statistics about the fate of the remaining Deaf people who are unable to access education. Some Deaf people do not achieve any qualifications and may have been enrolled by their parents into centres for people with complex disabilities.When I look at these stark statistics, I sometimes wonder how it is that I have managed to get where I am today in the face of such challenging circumstances.
I’m not the only deaf person in my family. Two of my siblings are hard of hearing and one is profoundly deaf. We had various methods of communicating. We wore hearing aids, used lip reading to communicate with hearing people and learnt sign language in order to communicate with other deaf people.
My parents were very secretive about our deafness during our childhood. In fact, they tried to hide it for as long as possible. Even our neighbours didn’t know about it. I still remember that when visitors came to the house my mum would answer any questions that were directed at us so that our deafness would not be exposed. The result of this was that we were rather withdrawn and isolated as children. All that has changed now of course and there is much more awareness in the community regarding people with disabilities and those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
For the first five years of my school life I went to a private school. I received special treatment because my parents had explained my situation to the school administration.
At the age of nine I moved to a public school. Academically, I was capable but I struggled to form friendships. I was trying to hide my deafness from the school administration and other students. In order to do this I would try to not speak so that people wouldn’t realize that I was deaf by the tone of my voice.
The environment was very different to my previous school and I had to learn quickly how to lip read. Though learning how to lip read helped me to some extent I became very shy as a consequence of my inability to communicate with my peers with ease. It is well known that the integration of Deaf students into mainstream settings in Jordan is generally unsuccessful as there is no specific training on how to create a suitable learning environment for Deaf learners and this is partly why so many Deaf learners drop out of education. There is also no specialised curriculum for Deaf students or differentiation for Deaf learners, which can make the classroom environment difficult.
Challenges at University
I chose to specialise in the field of Special Education at Al-Balqa AppliedUniversity and was encouraged to do this by my parents. It was the first time in my life I had met and mingled with deaf people and with the Deaf community. I absolutely loved it!
I faced many challenges during my time in university. It was extremely difficult to access the type of help I required. Furthermore, there was only one sign language interpreter available to me. In Jordan, there are only 30 sign language interpreters working in areas such as the Court of Justice, universities and organisations working with Deaf people. There is an urgent need to increase the number of sign language interpreters because more Deaf students are being accepted into university. Sometimes these interpreters do not have the skills or expertise to be able to provide a full and accurate sign language interpretation for the Deaf community in Jordan.
Despite these challenges, I completed my four year college degree and graduated with excellent marks. In the end, I overcame the obstacles in my path by helping my teachers to understand my support needs. I gradually told them that I was deaf and they began to understand and communicate with me better.
After graduating from college I worked as a teacher in a special School for the Deaf. I then began working at Amal school for Deaf, and the year after I began to study for my MA. The majority of deaf people do not pursue higher education due to the obstacles they encounter. Ordinarily they complete their high school certificate and try to get a job. Realising that there were no deaf people studying for MA’s I decided that I would try to break this barrier and be a role model for the Deaf community.
I faced many challenges during my studies due to my deafness. The university was unable to provide me with a sign language interpreter, which meant that I had to rely on my classmates and teachers to assist me in the classes. I was, however, delighted that my determination paid off and I passed my exams with a very good grade.
My Work, Inspiration and Vision for Deaf People in Jordan
Since 2003 I have been working as an ICT teacher at a private school for deaf children. I also work for the Jordanian Ministry of Education. My role involves advocating for the rights of disabled people as well as providing training to people on best practice when working with disabled people. I am also a member of the Supreme Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities where I represent deaf people. I am trained in Sign Language and train people who work with deaf people. I also spend time coordinating projects between deaf people and stakeholders and providing the necessary communication support.
I am passionate about volunteering and raising awareness of the needs of deaf people by telling my own success story. I want to bridge the gap between deaf and hearing people. I am always developing my skills by joining courses and programmes that enable me to be a better advocate for myself and other deaf people without relying on anyone else’s help.
In the future I would like to see deaf people learning languages such as English, French and German. I want deaf people to have a decent standard of living, to know their rights, and for their votes and decisions to directly impact policies that affect their lives. I want to see deaf people realising their dreams because so many deaf people do not know how to take the steps towards fulfilling their aspirations. I want to see more deaf people getting married, especially deaf women. I want there to be a formalised and structured training programme for Sign Language interpreters so that deaf people and their interpreters are both aware of their rights and duties. Finally, I would like to see deaf people united.
This article is contributed by Shereen Hussein, the first Deaf woman in Jordan to achieve a master’s degree. She works on integrating children with disabilities and nondisabled children in kindergarten programmes and vocational training. Her ambitions for the future are to study outside of Jordan for a PHD in Deaf education and improve the lives of Deaf people living in Jordan.
Previous article/interview: Andy Owen and Maria Bailey talk to us about the History of Communication Support Workers (CSW)
Next article/interview: Jade Bryan – The First Ever Deaf Black Filmmaker