Teachers learn sign language

South African Sign Language, SASL, teachers, sign, education, deaf

Embury Institute for Higher Education (Embury) launched the first South African Sign Language Teachers’ Training Programme in the country at the start of July. Students enrolling for this programme, which is run in partnership with the Development Institute for the Deaf and Blind (DIDB), will qualify with a higher certificate in preschool education.

The course is aimed at teaching assistants who are deaf and prospective South African sign language (SASL) teachers. Embury CEO Johan Human explains that appointing qualified SASL teachers is a prerequisite for the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) for SASL as a home language, which came into implementation in 2015. However, less than ten percent of schools for people who are deaf had a formal qualification in SASL at that time.

“The Department of Education appointed deaf SASL teaching assistants to co-teach with hearing teachers to try to close the gaps,” he says. “But while deaf teaching assistants are competent in SASL, most have never received formal training in classroom practice or qualified as teachers because universities are not accessible to them.”

Although teaching assistants are required to do similar work as qualified hearing CAPS for SASL teachers, they are appointed on the lowest salary scales because they lack formal qualification. The Embury programme will be offered at NQF 5 level, carries 126 credits and targets various groups.

These include deaf sign-language teaching assistants with endorsed Senior Certificates without university exemption; those without a Senior Certificate, but employed at schools who qualify via recognition of prior learning; deaf students who passed Grade 12 with university exemption; and prospective SASL teachers (with or without hearing loss) who wish to be trained as SASL teachers in full-service schools.

“We’re running the programme at our Montana campus in Pretoria as a two-year part-time distance-learning qualification,” Human says. “It will include periodic contact sessions, as well as school-based, work-integrated learning and tuition sessions at schools for the deaf or full-service schools.”

Embury will focus on core education-related training modules such as early-childhood development studies and computer practice for teachers, while DIDB will lead the deaf-specific training modules such as orthodidactics for teachers and educational audiology. These are all combined to create a holistic SASL teacher training curriculum.

Human adds that, once students have successfully completed the Higher Certificate in Preschool Education, they may enrol for a Bachelor of Education degree in Foundation Phase Teaching at Embury.

Ashley Hodgkinson is a qualified teacher who graduated from Embury in 2016 with a Bachelor of Education Foundation Phase and is deaf. She is an enthusiastic ambassador for the programme.

“I was fortunate that my mother is incredibly dedicated and acted as my interpreter in the classroom during high school and my four years of higher education,” she says. “Not everyone has my mom, and I think that this programme is a giant step towards making formal teaching qualifications more accessible to hearing-impaired students.

“In turn, it helps to improve the standards of teaching for deaf students throughout South Africa. It is also a wonderful opportunity for hearing students who want to learn how to teach using SASL.”

The first intake of students for the Embury SASL Teachers’ Training Programme Higher Certificate in Preschool Education will begin their studies in July and will complete their course at the end of June 2021.

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