Campus Experiences- Collins Prempeh, Ghana

Story by Patricia Mtero

Can you imagine living in  world where only a handful of people can understand your language and fewer still possess  the ability to speak it? We take our ability to speak and communicate with others so easily for granted. English has become a universal language that has allowed the bridging of communications gaps globally so why can the same not be done to create a more inclusive world for those who are deaf or hard of hearing? Imagine a world where Sign Language was normalized, imagine how much more accessible the world would become for this part of our global population.

I sat down with Collins Prempeh, a Ghanaian final year student in the Institute of Theology and Religious Studies to discuss the challenges and opportunities that exist for the increased uptake of Sign Language in universities across Africa and his experiences to date. Communicating through his translator, Collins said he Joined Africa University in 2019, not sure what to expect. He took a leap of faith and immersed himself in the college experience, over 4000 kilometres away from home. Participating in classes at first was a bit of a challenge as his interpreter would first listen to the lecturer’s guidance and instruction to the class at large and in turn, would sign to Collins what was being said. A deft combination of speed of understanding and accuracy of transmission was essential as anything lost in translation would literally reflect in Collins’ grades.  

Thankfully, administrative and academic support meant that Collins was never left behind in his learning.  Technology has also helped greatly as when Collins’ translator is not available, he uses his phone to type out messages to the other students and staff around him which they in turn type on and respond to,  but nothing will ever replace the beautiful subtlety and simplicity of having a free flowing conversation with another person which is why he is so passionate about starting a Sign Language Club before he graduates. 

He wishes to share his experiences and allow hearing students an opportunity to learn , teach and most importantly communicate with the hearing impaired and deaf. He says barriers to the uptake of Sign Language more widely are that people are intimidated by the prospect of learning a new language, let alone Sign Language, but once one is dedicated and removes these mental blocks, it is surprisingly easy and quite fun.  Sign Language is about so much more than just hand gestures but facial expressions, body language and gestures as well.

Looking to the future, Collins  can’t wait to graduate and is looking forward to working in Deaf Ministry within the church touching and transforming the lives of deaf and hearing people alike. We are sure that Collins will achieve this and so much more.