Kinley Dukpa graduated from Wangsel Institute for the Deaf in 2017. Equipped with vocational skills he acquired at the institute, hewas ready to work and live an independent life.
The reality astonished him. Work was hard to come by. He tried the vocational training institutes, even took bakery classes paying Nu 30,000, but this did not change his luck. He then returned to his village in Punakha.
Today, Kinley is working as a cook in one of the restaurants in Punakha.
There are about 12 deaf students who graduated from the institute since 2017 who are still waiting to find a decent job with the skill they gained at the institute.
The institute’s principal Dechen Tshering said it is difficult for deaf students to find jobs after graduation. He said this was not because of the lack of capability or skills, but due to the communication problem they have with the hearing society.
The vocational skill certificate they get from the institute is not recognised anywhere in the labour market including the labour ministry. “The deaf students otherwise are good,” he said.
Without any options or opportunities created for the deaf society, majority of them end up working in restaurants as cooks, dishwashers and waiters.
Although six deaf students who graduated in 2017 are working temporarily with a research team supported by the labour ministry, their term will end in December 2019. It is not sure what will happen to them.
Another six students who graduated in 2018 are waiting to be enrolled in Zorig Chusum, which would allow them to continue learning vocational skills. About four are doing basic tailoring course in Thimphu supported by the Disabled Persons’ Association of Bhutan.
The institute provides pre-vocational skills in four trades (two periods in a week from class IV-VI), tailoring, traditional painting, carpentry, and wood carving apart from basic education (grade X), value education, integration with hearing in sports and games, and learning of Bhutan Sign Language.
Vice-principal Norbu said that vocational institute trainers train the students, however, because of a lack of deaf trainer at different institutes, the students do not get an opportunity.
“If they need to upgrade their skills in the technical institute, they would require someone who knows sign language. This is why it has become important for hearing people to also learn sign language.”
He said there is a need to certify the institute’s certificate so that students could get the opportunity to get a job since the institute follows the same curriculum of the technical training institutes.
“Without such an opportunity it is affecting the deaf people to take up a professional job.”
The institute’s vocational instructors train students through sign language, however, principal Dechen Tshering said without formal training for instructors to train deaf students or deaf studies, it is challenging.
The principal said that the institute has requested education ministry to coordinate and enroll deaf students in Zorig Chusum so that they can get National Certificate level for employment.
The institute has also proposed to the Royal Civil Service Commission through education ministry to create a post for deaf instructors in Wangsel so that they can teach sign language to other young deaf students.
Some teachers said that it was time the government looked into the possibility of creating a teaching course for deaf people in the teacherstraining institutes.
As per the National Statistical Bureau (NSB), there are 3,650 hard of hearing people and 1,344 are deaf.
Only 118 people have been enrolled in Wangsel institute (106 students at present and 12 graduated in the last two years).
“Which mean only 2.4 percent have been enrolled so far indicating not many parents bring their children to study,” the principal said.
Yangchen C Rinzin