South Africa: Involve Deaf People in Deaf Education, Say Protesters

DeafSA members marched to the Western Cape Education Department on Friday

Members of The Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA) Western Cape marched to the offices of Provincial Minister of Education Debbie Schafer at Vunani Chambers, Church Street, on Friday.

They held placards that read: "Transformation in Deaf Education", "Nothing about Deaf without Deaf", and "Deaf voices leading solutions for Deaf education."

Western Cape Provincial Director of DeafSA Jabaar Mohamed addressed the marchers using sign language. He texted GroundUp what he said: "Viva SASL (South African Sign Language), Viva! We will work with Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and with our deaf community to make sure that our deaf children get better education ... All we are asking WCED is to listen and work to our planning and decision making. Please include deaf people in every decision when making decisions on deaf education and SASL."

Mohamed said the organisation wanted all deaf assistants to be appointed by the WCED, not by school governing bodies.

According to DeafSA, the Grade 12 pass rate in 2016 for deaf learners was under 29%.

Sigamoney Naicker, Chief Director for Inclusive Education and Special Programmes at the WCED, received a memorandum from the protesters. "Over the last two years we have made a lot of progress and worked hard to provide quality education," he said. "We are committed to quality education for all our learners. You have particular issues that you are raising and we can't ignore them."

DeafSA Western Cape is demanding that there be teaching staff fluent in sign language; that deaf people be involved in all educational, linguistic, cultural, recreational and sporting programmes; that in the 2019/20 financial year, there be provision for early childhood development for deaf children.

They also want a broader choice of subjects for deaf learners.

Among other things, the memorandum asks that the department provide professional development opportunities for deaf teaching assistants and secure a post at the provincial office for a sign language chief education specialist by April 2019.

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