Brimming with self-confidence, Iman’s hands race between gestures as she shares her thoughts with classmates without speaking. Resisting the limits imposed by her disability, the 24-year-old woman uses sign language to communicate with fellow students at UNRWA’s Gaza Training College. Iman and five other Deaf girls use sign language to communicate in regular vocational training courses. With the help of an interpreter, they have been enrolled in the collage’s cosmetology and hairdressing class since January of this year.
“They have tremendous energy to learn and communicate with others,” their trainer says. “I thought I would face difficulties in communicating with the girls, but I discovered that they have the skills, intelligence, and creativity. Their wonderful sense of humour also brought an atmosphere of fun and harmony to the sessions.”
Promoting employment and integration
The mixed classroom is a new initiative of UNRWA’s relief and social services programme and Gaza Training College, with the objective of offering “mainstreaming” opportunities in regular classes for refugees with disabilities. While boosting the vocational prospects of these students, the project also promotes social cohesion in the Gaza Strip.
Iman and her classmates are quick to share their excitement about participating in regular vocational training. “I plan to complete my training here, and then become a famous stylist,” says Mona. “I want to travel abroad to compete with those who work in this field.”
Along with a course in radiator maintenance for 16 other Deaf students, the cosmetology class has garnered positive reviews from both students and instructors. Many of the girls are already hoping to take additional courses at the Centre if the programme expands.
For Alaa’, the benefits are more than the skills she gains from the class. It’s the experience of learning “without the feeling of being different.”