Wangsel Insititute in Paro, earlier known as the Deaf Education Unit, has been conducting special sign-language lessons for almost four years now. However, these classes are not for the hearing-impaired children, but for their families and other interested individuals.
Over 40 people are attending today’s special class to learn sign languages at the Wangsel Institute. But these students are not the hearing impaired, but parents, siblings, school friends, and other interested people.
One of the learners is Yangdon, whose 14-year-old son studies at Wangsel. She says trying to understand her son’s gestures and communicating back with her son was impossible before.
“Before, when he used to say something we couldn’t understand him. And when we tried to tell him something he didn’t understand as well. Ever since my son joined this school, he has become brighter and even we are learning the sign languages now.”
Another parent, taking the class, is Ratna Maya. Her 11-year-old daughter is in class 2 at Wangsel Insititute. She says now she is able to understand her child and respond unlike before.
“We are able to ask my daughter where they want to go, or what they want to do or what they want to eat.”
Even young siblings attend the classes. One of them is Tandin Yoezer who has a hearing-impaired brother.
“Sometimes he is naughty, so I show him hand signs not to do it and he understands. Sometimes our mother gets upset trying to tell him something, so I interpret it to him for her.”
The classes are also attended by school teachers and students from Drugyel Lower Secondary School and others.
The program was first started in 2012 by Dechen, a teacher at the institute who is also tutoring the class today.
“After the students learn the sign language here in school, they go back home they try to communicate with their parents using the signs. But then their parents are not able to understand them and they cannot communicate back because they don’t know the signs. I personally witnessed these challenges and thought if I could maybe help solve this”
The classes are held free of charge and held every week on Thursday for an hour.