There is no reliable statistical data on the number of deaf people in Ghana, however, it is believed that there maybe one out of a thousand deaf persons in the population. So far it is believed that there maybe about 22 000 deaf people in Ghana. Because Ghana is a developing country and many people do not have access to good health care many people become deaf due to lack of pre-natal and anti-natal care. Taking this factor into consideration there could be more than 22 000 deaf in Ghana.
So far the Ghana National Association of Deaf, GNAD has about 6000 members. There has been mission work among deaf in Ghana by US and some European countries. An American Andrew Foster was first to establish a viable deaf school in Ghana after independence 1957. Thus Ghanaian Sign Language is based on American Sign Language (ASL).
Ghana has deaf schools at the primary level in all the 10 regions, however, there is one state owned Senior High School situated in Mampong in the Eastern Region of Ghana and two Vocational Schools for deaf.
At the moment, there are about 4000 students in the state deaf schools. Though teaching, living and eating in the state owned boarding schools is free there are often problems with access to money for transport, school uniforms, snacks, pocket money and learning materials.
In addition to these state deaf schools there are a few private schools catering for the educational needs of deaf children. The House of Grace believes it is the first private school of its kind to provide early childhood education for pre-school deaf children. The vision is that the school may grow to include a primary, secondary and vocational facilities in the very near future.
A more substantial problem is persistent negative attitude of parents and superstitious beliefs which acts as impediments in educating deaf children. Interaction with some deaf children revealed these entrenched perceptions:
- Deaf child will not benefit from education.
- When the family has economical problems they prioritize the education of the hearing children.
- There is often a belief that the deaf child will start “to speak” later. In that case parents do not want ”to give up” and bring the child to a deaf school.
- Parents are afraid that when the child learns sign language, he will stop talking. These children may know only how to speak few words, but it is considered more important to know how to speak few words than knowing a whole language: sign language.
- Parents are ashamed because of the deafness of their child. When the child starts a deaf school and learns how to sign deafness becomes “visible”.