|Sunday March 7, 2004
Overcoming the odds
BY PHILIP AUGUSTINE
KNOWING that a sound education is the key to success, deaf
students Yee Ke Xin and Haw Ching Cher did not let their disability
get in the way of their quest to excel in their studies. Against the
odds, Ke Xin scored 6As and 3Bs in the SPM, while Ching Cher
obtained 4As and 1B in the STPM.
Ke Xin, of SMK Sultan Abdul Samad, in Petaling Jaya, was the only
deaf student in her class. She says that at first she longed for her
old school where she was in a special class with all her
“I left my old school because they only offered seven subjects
for deaf students; I wanted to do nine,” says the 19-year-old who
aspires to be a teacher for the deaf.
SILENT VICTORY: Deaf students Ke Xin (left)
and Ching Cher obtained good results in the SPM and STPM
respectively, and hope to further their studies and become
teachers for the deaf.
She adds: “In the past, deaf people could not become teachers and
there were hardly any deaf schools. Even now, there are not many
qualified teachers for the deaf. So I want to teach deaf students
and hope I can inspire them to teach others.”
Similarly, Ching Cher, of SMJK Yu Hua, Kajang, in Selangor, hopes
to improve the lives of the deaf by helping to educate them.
“I want society to know that people with disabilities like me can
still be successful in their education just like everyone else,”
says the 20-year-old, whose brother is also deaf and studying
accounting in college.
She adds: “When I was young, I spent three years in a 'normal'
kindergarten. I absolutely could not understand what my teacher was
saying. I didn't learn anything and I just sat there looking
It was only when she entered primary school in SRK (1) Jalan
Semenyih, Kajang, (a school that conducts classes for the deaf) that
Ching Cher begin to interact with other deaf students and
communicate with teachers who knew sign language.
She says: “I'm lucky to be able to read and write and communicate
with hearing people because not many deaf people can read and write,
and many rely just on sign language. I believe that deaf children
should be taught sign language as early as possible if they want to
be successful in the future.”
However, she says that asking her classmates for help wasn't
always easy. “I understand when some of my friends get tired or
frustrated with me, so I back off and look for others who are in a
better mood. I've developed a thick skin,” says Ching Cher, who not
only plans to be a teacher for the deaf but also an advocate for
“I actually want to be a lawyer so that I can help the deaf
community where many are not aware of their rights. I hope that one
day, there will be a special court just for the deaf and I can be a
lawyer,” she says, through an interpreter.
While more schools and services are available for the deaf, many
jobs are still closed to the deaf, says Ching Cher. “I feel
employers will always be prejudiced against deaf people or offer
lower salaries and less benefits.”
Ke Xin and Ching Cher say that the present method of teaching the
deaf via the Kod Tangan Bahasa Melayu is not only slow and
tedious but ineffective.
They say that Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (BIM) is the
official and true language of deaf Malaysians, with its own grammar,
style and structure. They hope that BIM will be incorporated into
the school curriculum as a language subject, and be used as the
medium of communication in schools for the deaf.
Ching Cher says there is also the need for more interpreters for
the deaf in Malaysia. “Sign language interpreters don’t only help
deaf people, they also help hearing people to communicate with the
deaf,” she says, adding that a training centre should be set
“I hope that when I enter Form Six, there would be an interpreter
in the class so that I don’t miss out on anything,” says Ke
Both girls are members of the YMCA Deaf Club and Pusat Majudiri Y
for the Deaf.
Typical teenagers, they enjoy going out with friends, shopping,
watching TV and reading. They carry handphones and communicate via
“I feel optimistic about the future. Deaf people are also
capable; sometimes even more capable than hearing people,” says Ke
Xin, who dreams of studying at Gallaudet University in Washington
DC, a university that caters for the deaf and hearing
Meanwhile, Ching Cher is looking for a university as well as a
scholarship to pursue tertiary studies.
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