Whole Class of First Graders Learn Sign Language to Communicate with Deaf Classmate

A school in Sarajevo is making headlines for not only accepting a deaf student, but also teaching his entire class sign language to allow them to better communicate with him.

The heartwarming story began in September last year when Mirzana Coralic requested the primary school in her neighborhood to enroll her six-year-old son, Zejd, who has a hearing disability. The teacher, Sanela Ljumanovic, accepted almost immediately, but on the first day of school, she noticed Zejd sitting all by himself, unable to communicate with any of his school mates.

Sanela, determined to find a solution, tried developing a few tricks and signs of her own. But a parent of another child came up with an even better idea – getting the whole class to learn sign language along with Zejd. So they got sign language teacher Anisa Setkic-Sendic on board, and three months later, Zejd was happily able to communicate to all his classmates about regular things like homework and games.


Photo: video screen grab

The other kids in Zejd’s class are quite happy as well. “I like this language and I also think it will be useful when I grow up,” said Anesa Susic, one of his classmates. “I like to learn Zejd’s language so I can talk to him and to other deaf people,” added Tarik Sijaric, another classmate. Now, sign language is getting quite popular at Osman Nakas primary school, with kids from other classes trying to learn as well.  

“We are all happy as we are learning a new language,” Sanela said, adding that sign language is great because it enables communication and also helps children become more sensitive towards people with disabilities. She now hopes that it can be included as a part of the official curriculum.


Photo: Avaz.ba

Although Bosnia has laws in place that allow children with disabilities to attend all schools, full integration has been rather difficult in practice. There aren’t many teachers like Anisa, mainly because the Ministry of Education does not pay for sign language classes. Zejd is truly one of the luckier children because the parents of the children in his class offered to contribute money to pay for the lessons. Of course, not all parents can afford to, but Sanela maintains confidentially about which parents pay and how much.

“We are finding ways,” Anisa said. “The children are growing, we can’t wait for better times to come.” Meanwhile, Sanela thinks the next goal is to teach Zejd to read lips. “He is a good kid, a smart kid,” she said.


Sources: Skolegijum, Avaz

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