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Media Release

Sunday, 8 September, 2002

Importance of Sign Language

Statement by André Gaum, Western Cape Education Minister

Sign language should be the 12th official language of South Africa.

Whilst 10% of the world's population is hearing impaired greater or lessor extent and many deaf people use sign language to communicate, sign language remains a chiefly unrecognized language. Hearing impaired learners should be afforded the opportunity of receiving instruction in the language of their choice. Other languages like Afrikaans, English or Xhosa would form their second language.

On visiting De Le Bat School in Worcester I told the deaf learners that, I together with my department believe that every learner not only has the right to a good education but that no learner should be left behind.

As there are no second rate children who should be satisfied with a second rate education, my department will remain committed to constantly pushing the limits and thereby allow more learners to break through to a better future, a world class future

Although many technological innovations are currently revolutionizing the way that deaf people are able to communicate sign language is still used as the language of instruction for many hearing impaired learners. Both SMS and e-mail allow for educational materials to be made available to the hearing impaired.

New revolutionary developments include:

  • Distance learning via a satellite which will connect to 26 electronic (remote)classrooms throughout South Africa. One of these classrooms is will be located at the campus of the Institute for the Deaf at Worcester. The University of Stellenbosch is the service provider of this very advanced form of technology. Currently all broadcasts are conducted from the studio in Stellenbosch.

  • Basic training that has been placed on CD and video.

  • Future plans of the Institute include the establishment of a studio in Worcester to make possible direct broadcasts to all deaf people in South Africa.

FET training on various NQF levels presented at the College for the deaf. It is the dream of the Institute that the theoretical sections of these skill courses should be presented in sign language electronically.

We commend Stellenbosch University and the Institute for the deaf for the tremendous work they are doing in enabling hearing impaired learners to obtained a first class education.

I urge all businesses, NGO's and other rolepalyers to support these initiatives in whatever way possible. Together, through education we can break through to a better education. I trust that the proposal presented will be given the careful consideration it deserves.

Media inquiries:
Ruhan Robbertze
Cell: 082 577 6551
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