Deaf students determined to make most of HKIEd

Women are a first at institute, and hope to use it as a springboard to educating others like them

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 6:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 6:09am

Deaf students are no different from the rest except for one thing: they need a fair opportunity to shine, advised two deaf women who were admitted to the Institute of Education this year.

Jenny Ngai Mei-chun and Joyce Pun Chung-sze are both on a three-year part-time course to earn a degree in special-education needs at the institute.

They hope to become teachers in schools where children with and without disabilities learn together.

"I've wanted to go to university since I was young," said Ngai via an interpreter.

The 24-year-old used to study design at the Institute of Vocational Education, but she said the experience was like "being put in prison".

"I sat there and didn't know what the teachers were saying. It was so bad when they told me they couldn't help," said Ngai, bursting into tears.

"We're not intellectually worse off. We can perform like any other students - if we have an interpreter to help us communicate in class," added Ngai, who is a teaching assistant at Kowloon Bay St John the Baptist Catholic Primary School.

Pun's experience has been quite different. The 39-year-old read mathematics and got a degree from Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, where she said deaf students were well catered to.

"My life in the states was delightful," said Pun, via the interpreter. "The school arranged everything for me. I was respected by everyone."

Now a research assistant at the centre for sign languages and deaf studies at Chinese University, she said: "I'd like to use my own experience to help disabled students out there. That's why I want to study special-needs education.

"Disabled students, no matter whether they're deaf, blind or whatever, need a fair opportunity to learn."

Pun hoped to see education in Hong Kong become more inclusive, reflecting the fact that disabled students are part of society.

Their arrival in September marked the first time the institute has admitted deaf students. It had already discussed their needs with them.

"When I interviewed them, I could see their determination. What they needed was the opportunity," said Mabel Shek Mei-po, a senior teaching fellow in the department of special education and counselling, who admitted the two students into the programme.

It was a decision that is costing the institute more than HK$100,000 a year to provide the necessary assistance, including a sign-language interpreter.

"Education is an investment. If resources are spent on students, there's a multiplying effect. When they become teachers, thousands of students will be nurtured," said Dr Tom Fong Wing-ho, director of student affairs of the institute.