Introduction / History
The Deaf of Ethiopia live similarly to any other person within their given cultures, but are cut off from meaningful interaction with them. The vast majority of deaf Ethiopians, who live in rural areas, spend their lives in extreme isolation. They are looked down upon as mentally deficient and evil because of their lack of speech. In many places they are misunderstood as being a result of sinful behavior, or some form of supernatural curse. They are not seen as suitable marriage partners and may even result in the entire family's loss of status. For this reason they are frequently sheltered even further from the outside world and communicate only with their families or those close to them through small amounts of writing or signing, if they are able.
In towns more awareness has been generated regarding the Deaf. Many parents are eager to send their children to schools, although the resources available are not sufficient for the number of potential students. missionaries, and more so lately, the government, have established several schools for the Deaf. In more recent years clubs for the Deaf have formed in some towns, helping the Deaf to be less isolated and allowing sign language to be brought into use.
Sign language was first taught in Ethiopia by American missionaries and is based on American Sign Language (ASL) and Signed English. It has been modified to suit Ethiopian culture but may still be intelligible with ASL. Much development is needed for resources in Ethiopian Sign Language and for the language itself.
At the two schools that are boarding schools and also in the capital city there are groups of believers. It seems that the Deaf are open to the Gospel, if they are fortunate enough to know someone who can communicate it to them. It is also of significance that, in their desperation, Muslim families are willing to send their deaf children to Christian-run schools. This is a people group in need of someone willing to reach out to them.
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