Mirzana Coralic’s 6-year-old son, Zejd, sat silently during his first days of school in Bosnia, the Associated Press reported.
Zejd is deaf and didn’t know sign language, and no one at his school could communicate with him, the wire service reported. His teacher tried to reach out to him, and then a parent had a novel suggestion: Why don’t all of the kids in the first-grade class learn sign language together?
It took three months, but now this class in Sarajevo’s Osman Nakas primary school knows the basics of sign language and communicates with Zejd.
“I like to learn Zejd’s language so I can talk to him and to other deaf people,” Tarik Sijaric, one of Zejd’s best friends, told AP. “It is fun.”
Before enrolling, Coralic tried to learn sign language with her son, but he was uninterested. “He looks forward to going to school,” she told the wire service. “Now he is happy and motivated.”
The law requires Bosnian schools to provide individual programming for students with disabilities and special needs, but “in reality, students with disabilities who do attend school … often find minimal accommodations or supports to help them succeed,” according to a 2010 report from UNICEF. That same report notes that a lack of adequate teacher training and societal stigma remain challenges for students with disabilities.
Anisa Setkic-Sendic teaches sign language to Zejd’s class and is paid through donations from parents, rather than from the Ministry of Education, AP reported.
“When he sees how much others insist on communicating with him, it is motivating,” Setkic-Sendic told AP. “This should be normal.”
The next goal is for Zejd to learn how to read lips, said his first-grade teacher, Sanela Ljumanovic.
“We are all happy as we are learning a new language,” she told AP. “He is a good kid, a smart kid.”