The Guyana Deaf Education  Project:

Images: Images-1 (2008)  |  Images 2 (2009)  |

From the Journal of Safari Bill:

Hello ASL Heroes!!!

An initiative is underway to begin teaching sign language to Deaf and hard of hearing children in six primary schools in Guyana, South America.

The Guyana Community Based Rehabilitation Program (CBR) in cooperation with the Guyana Support Group for Deaf Persons requested that I travel to Georgetown in South America to share my experience with the local instructors regarding how to teach American Sign Language to their pupils.

As part of this initiative I conducted a two-week, "Train the Sign Language Trainer" workshop at the National Center for Education Research and Development (NCERD) in Guyana.  [The local spelling is "Centre"]

At the workshop I presented the "" ASL Curriculum Model and taught the participating instructors how to put it to work in their own classes as a flexible, effective, and low-cost approach to improving communication in the classroom.

-- Safari Bill
(a.k.a Dr. Bill) (a.k.a. William Vicars Ed.D.)
Summer 2008

From the Journal of Safari Bill:

     The service work in Guyana went really well.  It is a challenge to overstate how hard I worked and how exciting it all was. My efforts included teaching 10 all-day workshops to over 30 local educators and providing consultation to various government and community groups. It was exciting to see the "Train the Trainer" project  featured on national (Guyanese) TV by channel 2 and also channel 9. Plus it was covered in their leading newspaper in several different articles. 

     Currently I'm working at a distance with the people in Guyana to set up the Guyana Deaf Education Association and also the "Guyana Association of the Deaf." I'm also excited to be sponsoring an entrepreneurial micro-business initiative with the local Deaf (a custom designed jewelry creation and export business).  An additional fun project that is near and dear to my heart is a literacy initiative based on providing "high picture content reading material" to Deaf youth. That is a fancy way of saying I encourage you to send stacks of comic books that have been gathering dust in your  garage for some time now. By donating your old (or even new) comics to you can empower others to develop a love of reading.

I encourage you to send books and comic books (appropriate for young children) to the following address, (include a note that it is a donation and that you heard about the Deaf Education Project from

Head of School, Dionne McKenzie
The David Rose School
48 Thomas Road
Thomas Lands
Georgetown, Guyana

Thank you in advance! 
- Dr. Bill

p.s.I am very grateful to the many wonderful individuals who are (and have been for many years) striving to provide opportunities for and improve the circumstances of Deaf people in Guyana. I appreciate them letting me share a small part of their world. See the Project Outline by Sabine McIntosh below.

The Guyana Deaf Education  Project: 
By Sabine McIntosh
(Summer 2008)

Over the years the issue of educating the deaf child has received relatively little attention from government ministries and other agencies. Specific data are lacking, but we know that only a fraction of the deaf school age population -- 446 deaf and hard of hearing children in the 5-14 age groups according to the 2002 National Census -- is/are actually attending school. Less than 100 children are enrolled country-wide in 3 special needs schools.

In the sixties a school for the deaf had been established in Georgetown in response to the Rubella outbreak in 1961/62 (David Rose School) and was staffed with teachers trained abroad in deaf education; however, that momentum was not sustained and the school is now without qualified staff. At present there is only one specially trained teacher in the school system, at the New Amsterdam Special Needs School.

Today the majority of deaf adults are unable to read and those in employment are invariably at the lower end of the income scale.

More recently, particularly through the efforts of the Community Based Rehabilitation Program (CBR), Volunteer Services Organization, and Deaf Mission Guyana, there has been a heightened interest in deaf issues, focusing on research, community involvement, parent counseling and deaf education.

The Problem:

Delivery of education to school age children who are deaf or hard of hearing is lagging far behind that of hearing children; in addition average enrolment is much lower than that of the general school population. Major contributing factors, apart from a lack of facilities, are the shortage/absence of trained teachers, the lack of a special curriculum with supporting materials and, at a different level, the widely held misconception that deafness effectively ‘disables' a person from achieving anything much in life (so why send him/her to school).

Sign language, which is a deaf child's first language and crucial for its mental, emotional and social development, is not taught in the special needs programme for teacher trainees; neither do parents have access to sign language classes in their communities. So teachers as well as parents are severely limited in their efforts to communicate and interact with, let alone teach, the deaf child.

The existing system of deaf education has failed to deliver an acceptable standard of education to the deaf, if only to the fraction that is actually enrolled. A new approach is called for.

Introducing computer assisted learning to the deaf classroom will set new benchmarks in deaf education; together with teacher training and parent involvement it will impact significantly and positively on the overall school performance of deaf students; it will enable them to proceed to secondary and tertiary levels of education and to compete for higher income jobs.

General objective:

Children who are deaf or hard of hearing are given an equal opportunity at all levels of education.

Specific objectives

1.      Significantly improved school performance of deaf children in literacy and numeracy at participating schools.

2.      Teachers at participating schools are teaching in sign language (ASL) and in a way that is appropriate and effective in a deaf classroom.

3.      Teachers at participating schools are using computer-based learning when teaching ASL, literacy and numeracy (and other subjects where appropriate).

4.      A system of monitoring the computer based learning process is in place.

5.      Enrolment at participating schools is increasing.

6.      Counseling and classes in basic sign language are available for family members of deaf children within the respective areas and are being utilized at an acceptable level.

Target Group

The immediate target group are 24 to 30 teachers who are now or will in the foreseeable future teach at one of the participating 3 schools or at schools/resource centres earmarked by the Ministry of Education (MoE).

Also targeted will be 12 interested persons (not necessarily teachers) who will act as resource persons for family counseling and education.

The ultimate target group are deaf and hearing impaired children.


The project will be implemented in three phases:

  1. Training of all participants in basic sign language (GSL/ASL) by local resource persons
  2. a) Training of teachers in task-specific ASL, deaf-education-methodology, computer-assisted learning, deaf culture and other deaf issues.
    b) Training of resource persons in parent counseling and parent education (basic sign language and deaf related issues)
  3. Implementation phase: placement of teachers and resource persons, monitoring and critical evaluation

 Time Frame

The project is expected to take 18 months, with each phase taking up approximately 6 months.


·         Establish steering committee to initiate and oversee project 

·         The steering committee will gather the project team: representatives from CBR, MoE, Deaf Mission, participating schools, Dr. Bill Vicars, director of ASL University's Online ASL Program (

·         The project team will identify participating schools, resource centres, training venues

·         The project team will select the trainees: group A: 24 to 30 teachers and group B: 12 interested persons who will undertake to do parent counselling and  parent education (basic sign language) after completing the course

·         The project team will identify and recruit 18 local trainers (6 hearing signers and 12 deaf signers), 2 expert trainers from overseas

·         The project team together with resource persons will develop training modules for the phases 1 and II, namely:

1.      Basic sign language

2.      Teaching parents basic sign language

3.      Deaf culture and deaf issues

4.      Counseling family members of the deaf

5.      ASL for teachers

6.      Curriculum development

7.      Teaching the deaf

·            general issues

·            teaching ASL

·            teaching literacy

·            teaching numeracy

·            assessment

8.      Basic computer skills

9.      Computer-assisted learning

·         The project team together with resource persons will develop/produce teaching materials

·         The project team will schedule and make all necessary arrangements for training modules.

·         Training modules are implemented by the respective resource persons

·         The MoE  will place teachers/resource persons who successfully completed the programme

·         CBR will place resource persons who successfully completed the programme

·         The project team will design and put in place a system to monitor and evaluate project activities and objectives, particularly during the implementation phase.

Expected results

  1. A pool of teachers (not less than 12) trained in ASL, deaf-education methodology and computer-based learning.
  2. A pool of resource persons (not less than 6) trained in family counselling and basic sign language.
  3. Three Special Needs Schools will have not less than 2 trained staff each and will be equipped with laptops, the appropriate software and DSL
  4. Teaching/learning will be computer-based in the participating schools and will be monitored by California State University Sacramento (CSUS), and ASL University (USA).

Important Assumptions

  1. Enough interested trainees are available and complete the course successfully
  2. MoE will come on board and will assist in facilitating participation of teachers in scheduled training sessions, will assist with the acquisition of materials and equipment and will integrate project gains into the school system
  3. DSL will be made available by GT&T
  4. Sufficient laptops are being made available
  5. Funding is available
  6. Schools and communities respond favourably to project activities.


Community Based Rehabilitation Program (CBR) is the executing agency

CBR  branches will act as ‘resource centres' in areas selected for participation

The Support Group for Deaf Persons will be directly responsible for the implementation of the project; its (hearing and deaf) members will be instrumental in administrating and implementing the project.

Ministry of Education will assist in facilitating participation of teachers in scheduled training sessions, will assist with the acquisition of materials and equipment and will be instrumental in integrating project gains into the school system. It is in effect an important project partner and will be involved at all stages of the project.

Voluntary Service Organisation (VSO) will facilitate the input of expert volunteers from overseas.

California State University Sacramento (CSUS), and ASL University (  will be instrumental in facilitating the "Train the Trainer" aspect of the project. Dr. Bill Vicars, director of ASLU's Online and Immersion Programs, is expected to come to Guyana to design, conduct (to the extent possible), and oversee the training of trainers aspect.