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The Silent Classes Amid a Noisy City

In what is perhaps the first government-run degree in Asia, Presidency College has two classes for the hearing disabled Commerce and computer concepts are explained, discussed and debated in these classrooms using sign language

Published: 23rd March 2016 04:45 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd March 2016 04:45 AM   |  A+A-

The Silent Classes

CHENNAI: Each of these two classes has 30 students. But these are perhaps the only two classrooms in the Presidency College to remain silent for most of the day. And it’s not that these students are so silent by nature, but they speak the language of silence — they are students of the specially designed BCom and BCA courses for those with hearing disabilities.

Commerce and computer concepts are explained, discussed and debated in these classrooms using sign language. Ask the students and they say language is no barrier. The faculty member of the class introduces us to Noor Jahan, who studied B Com in the same class and is now doing her doctorate in commerce. Next year, she will be completing her thesis, which will be a proud moment for the staff, who have succeeded in producing the college’s first doctorate with hearing disability.

Faculty members claim that this is the only government-run college degree course in Asia. It had a humble beginning in 2007, with just 15 students and three guest lecturers but now it has three teaching faculty for each of the courses, who are also well-versed in sign language.

“We receive over 200 applications from across the State. But there are only 30 seats available and we see parents leaving dejected when we say the seats are filled. Recently, we requested the government and got the number of seats raised to 36,” says Dr T Pramananda Perumal, principal of the college.

A few students who complete their graduation in these courses go for higher education in the same college. “They study along with general students and continue to get guidance from us,” says Pon Mukesh Devan, assistant professor in the commerce department. Though the students are comfortable studying with general students, the special class gives them confidence while studying along with peers who face similar challenges in life. “While studying B Com, I enjoyed the classes and was able to interact with the teacher without effort. I hope the college and the government offer additional courses for the hearing impaired,” says Noor Jahan, as she communicated in sign language with the reporter.

The obvious reason students prefer to study in this college is the low fees. The students say it costs them only about `2,000 a year in the college. Professor Kalidass, head, commerce department, says, “Hearing impaired students apply with good marks but we were not able to select many as the reservation changes the priority. If the number of seats increases, there will be a problem in giving attention to the students. When there was a shortage, I tried teaching them; it was a different experience. I have to write down most of the concepts and explain it to them. The students ask numerous questions and I am also eager to help them.”

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