Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Communication Gaps in Prevention, Detection & Treatment of Deafness in Namibia—The NGO CLaSH: An Investigation
by Chirawu, Tendayi O., M.A., The American University of Paris (France), 2013, 132; 10305748
Abstract (Summary)

Preventable deafness is a communicative disability that is common and creates many challenges with social, political and human consequences. Higher incidences of preventable deafness in Namibia are a result of ineffective communication practices i.e. communication gaps due to poor decentralization policy, poverty, lack of accountability and bureaucracy. Lack of communication between the civil society actors and the presence of ill-informed perceptions of deafness create difficulties in its detection, treatment or prevention. This study focuses on communication factors that hinder the effort to effectively address deafness in Namibia.

This study looks closely at The Association for Children with Speech, Language and Hearing Impairments, (Clash), as a case study. CLaSH is an NGO that is dedicated to the welfare of deaf citizens with a focus on children. Through its work, Clash identifies and informs society about the multiple communication limitations that directly or indirectly contribute towards deafness and the social handicaps it creates for those who suffer from it. Academic literature on hearing impairment is limited in Namibia even though the estimated number of Junior and High School graduates suffering from the impairment is forty percent. Important to note is that everything that is communicated to the Namibian population about deafness and other impairments reflects the mainstream perspective which unfortunately does not represent the needs of the deaf. The popular perception of deafness contributes to the knowledge gap by perpetuating misinformation. The deaf are not benefitting from such communication because social policy makers, NGO workers and other stakeholders have not taken fully into account the specific communication needs of the deaf. In particular, the deaf population's life challenges are not adequately reflected in the story of Namibian life. The deaf are unable to participate and be self-determining agents in the Namibian community as a result. These factors compound the negative effects of the limitation of communication, particularly with regard to eradicating misinformation about deafness. Therefore, studying government institutions" handling of the issue in terms of the mode of communication and the strategies used in order to alleviate the problem and determining the roles the deaf play in society, enables an understanding of how the problem could best addressed.

The present study is guided by "gap knowledge theory". Data was obtained through structured and semi-structured interviews with knowledgeable persons strategically placed in related positions in government,—and those running/managing private organizations directly or indirectly involved with deafness: audiologists, ear nose and throat medical doctors, the director of CLaSH and special education teachers institutionally or personally involved with the deaf community. The current research sought to understand the context within which the interviewees became involved with preventable deafness in order to better identify the communication gaps that have developed within the campaigns to address this phenomenon.

Additionally, the thesis will present a desk study on the impact of decentralization—the country's strategy to take the government to the people particularly in terms of communicating national policies on developmental challenges which include deaf impairment. Examining decentralization is necessary to understand the government's role in nationwide literacy levels and general infrastructure issues. Communication policy and practice play a critical role in the success or failure of the government's ability to establish best practices in the prevention, detection and treatment of preventable deafness. The study will consist of gathering information on communication capacity particularly literacy levels, and on the appropriateness and sufficiency of the general infrastructure particularly for providing information and different social services. The study will also examine the impact of foreign aid, such as that given by Iceland, to deafness and deafness campaigns in Namibia. Such foreign aid has been used to equip key stakeholders governmental and non governmental institutions—with the skills and facilities to alleviate the problem.

Our study will offer policy recommendations in line with the interpretation of the research findings. It is hoped that the recommendations shall assist the policy formulation process to better cater to the needs of at risk populations and those afflicted with preventable deafness.

The fact is most cases of deafness in Namibia are preventable. The current research intends to examine the role that communication plays in the prevention, detection and treatment of deafness while asking to what extent deafness is a result of communication gaps that lead to poor practices and ineffective policies among stakeholders.

Key words: Preventable deafness, gap theory, social economic status, communication policies, aid

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Talcott, Charles
Commitee: Carlson, Kerstin
School: The American University of Paris (France)
Department: Global Communications and Civil Society
School Location: France
Source: MAI 56/02M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Audiology, Communication, Public policy
Keywords: Association for Children with Speech, Language and Hearing Impairments, Communication gaps, Deafness, Namibia
Publication Number: 10305748
ISBN: 9781369493122
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