The national sign language is called “Kenyan Sign Language", KSL.
Following the Census 2009 there were 366,811 hearing disabled people and 236,491 people with speech disability in Kenya. The only figures known by us about the number of KSL users are the ones provided by Ethnologue, whose researchers have estimated in 340.000 people.
The first studies on KSL appeared in 1987. In 1991 was published a KSL dictionary. There are also some printed teaching materials available. Recently, several videos containing KSL vocabulary are published in internet. See two lists of printed works on KSL below.
Since 2010 the KSL is officialy in the country. The recognition was done at constitutional level (Ch. 2, Art. 7 and Ch. 8, Leg. 120 of the new Kenyan Constitution).
According to our sources, there are signs of the existence of a Deaf community life in Kenya toward the end of the 1970s or the beginning of the 1980s. Around that time, the first generation of Deaf students had completed their school training and had moved to the largest country´s cities to look for work. In 1986 the National Deaf Association in Nairobi (KNAD) was already established. For more details see Owitie 2012.
The KNAD is a member of the WFDeaf and represents around 13 local associations.
1961: Nuns from The Netherlands founded the first Kenyan school for the deaf in Nyang´oma, the St. Mary´s Primary School for the Deaf.
1986: Was founded the Kenya National Association of the Deaf.
1987: The KNAD is officially registrated.
1991: The first KSL dictionary, the Kenyan Sign Language dictionary, is published in Nairobi by the KNAD (see Akach 1991).
Following data published by the Association of Kenya Deaf Teachers (KFDT) are there in Kenya 50 institutions offering training or educational programs for hearing impaired people. Among them are three vocational training schools and three secondary schools. There are 17 trained Deaf teachers of the Deaf.
Albeit the use of KSL in schools is relatively common, there are too few Deaf teachers. In addition, many hearing teachers do not have sufficient knowledge of KSL. In this regard, a bilingual education for the deaf should be considered as being only partially available.
Kenya signed the UN Convention in 2007 and ratified it in 2008. The corresponding protocol is still waiting for signature and ratification (see UN-Enable).
There are a small number of certified sign language interpreters in the country (WFD & SNAD 2008:86). Their certification followed a training course directed by ASL interpreters from the United States in year 2000. These group of trained interpreters have founded in the same year the Kenya Sign Language Interpreters Association (KSLIA). According to the KSLIA there are currently no training opportunities for new interpreters in the country. No more information is available to us.
This article was originally written in Spanish by Dr. Alejandro Oviedo for the deaf-atlas in September 2013. The text was translated into English by same author.
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