The Star Early Edition

An ap­peal for the many for­got­ten SA cit­i­zens

- Adri Senekal de Wet

DEAR READ­ERS of Busi­ness Re­port (BR). I cel­e­brated my first an­niver­sary as ex­ec­u­tive busi­ness ed­i­tor of In­de­pen­dent Me­dia last week. I thank our chair­man, Dr Iqbal Survé, for al­low­ing me, and en­trust­ing me, to serve our coun­try in a spe­cial way.

I want to thank the BR team for their com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion, for de­liv­er­ing world class ar­ti­cles, for the many ex­tra hours they worked, for the many miles they trav­elled, for the guts to take on big com­pa­nies on cor­rup­tion, for their kind­ness when least ex­pected but mostly, for their com­mit­ment to­wards de­liv­er­ing break­ing news, in­ves­tiga­tive ar­ti­cles and solid re­port­ing to you, our loyal read­ers.

Sech­aba ka’ Nkosi, Philippa Larkin, Roy Cokayne, Ka­belo Khu­malo, Sizwe Dlamini, Siseko Njobeni, Di­neo Faku, Sandile Mchunu, Luy­olo Mken­tane, Joseph Booy­sen, Vi­asen Soo­bra­money, Mashudu Malema, Ver­non Pil­lay, Ash­ley Lech­man, Tra­cia Deyce, Martin Hesse, Arnie Hicks, and BR free­lance contributo­rs the likes of Ryk de Klerk, Dr Prieur du Plessis, Wes­ley Diphoko, Dr Chris Harmse, Amelia Mor­gen­rood and many oth­ers, I salute you.

Thank you for your sup­port, to­gether, we achieved more than was pub­lished in print and on-line, we changed the nar­ra­tive. We not only re­port busi­ness news, we cre­ated a plat­form for Africans to com­mu­ni­cate a message of hope.

Reader’s plea for deaf ed­u­ca­tion

Edi­tors all over the world re­ceive let­ters from read­ers. I aim to re­spond to most. Not all let­ters lead to some­thing BIG. I was hon­oured to re­ceive such a let­ter from a twice-re­tired per­son last week, an icon, a man that fights for the rights of those de­prived of the priv­i­lege of “hear­ing”. Mr Marin Pi­eterse.

He wrote:

Dear Adri, As men­tioned to you, my rea­son for con­tact­ing you was as a fol­low-up to your im­pres­sive ar­ti­cle on Sa­gar­matha Tech­nolo­gies IAB with “an ar­ray of heavy­weight in­vestors and busi­ness lead­ers”.

I be­lieve these in­vestors could per­haps play a con­struc­tive CSI role in sup­port­ing the deaf ed­u­ca­tion cause in South Africa.

The fact re­mains, that presently ed­u­ca­tion­ally not much is be­ing done for the deaf.

“As a dis­tinc­tive com­mu­nity in South Africa, the deaf, com­pris­ing some 1.6 mil­lion per­sons, are in­ter­cul­tural, span all walks of so­ci­ety, gen­der, race and creed, are largely from vul­ner­a­ble lower so­cio-eco­nomic and less priv­i­leged cir­cum­stance, spread in small indige­nous group­ings across the coun­try.

The cur­rent want­ing deaf ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion pro­vi­sion is demon­strated in a vir­tual ab­sence of qual­ity pre-school for­ma­tive ground­ing.

There is an ex­tremely re­stricted num­ber of spe­cial schools (with a ra­tio of one school for 38 000 mem­bers of the deaf com­mu­nity, com­pared to 2 000 for the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion); un­law­fully low statu­tory learner en­list­ment (with only 5.5 per­cent of the ob­li­gated deaf learn­ers en­rolled, com­pared to a gen­eral pop­u­la­tion en­rol­ment of 129.6 per­cent); in­creas­ing paucity of deaf spe­cial needs ed­u­ca­tion-trained ed­u­ca­tors (less than 25 per­cent cur­rently hav­ing ap­pro­pri­ate train­ing, and only 10 per­cent con­ver­sant in sign lan­guage).

There is an in­fe­rior qual­ity deaf ed­u­ca­tion prof­fer­ing – based upon a hear­ing core cur­ricu­lum (with an early learner drop-out fig­ure as high as 80 per­cent in some cases and only 31 per­cent of des­ig­nated schools pro­vid­ing tu­ition to Grade 12).

This re­sults in the ma­jor­ity of deaf learn­ers even­tu­ally leav­ing school largely une­d­u­cated with abysmally poor func­tional lit­er­acy, nu­mer­acy and life-skills groom­ing lev­els, and, faced with an un­en­light­ened and largely un­sym­pa­thetic em­ployer sec­tor, suf­fer­ing a dev­as­tat­ing 90 per­cent un­em­ploy­ment rate – 337 per­cent higher than the na­tional hear­ing un­em­ployed level.

This sit­u­a­tion has calami­tous, last­ing con­se­quences for the deaf.

In ef­fect, the deaf, not­with­stand­ing their in­her­ent in­tel­li­gence and ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and right to equal cit­i­zen­ship, are as a vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion group­ing silently be­ing con­signed by an un­sym­pa­thetic ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem to lesser cit­i­zen­ship, frus­trated and un­ful­filled, and for­ever en­tirely de­pen­dent upon state so­cial grant pit­tances for their very sur­vival.

Left unchecked the un­ten­able sta­tus quo will even­tu­ally lead to a to­tal col­lapse of the fab­ric of the deaf so­ci­ety in South Africa.

That presently ed­u­ca­tion­ally not be­ing done for the deaf – or worse yet, know­ingly per­pe­trated against them – is in di­rect vari­ance with the tenets of the South African Con­sti­tu­tion and the UN’s Con­ven­tion on the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties.

Tan­gi­ble mea­sures need there­fore to be ur­gently in­sti­tuted to ma­te­ri­ally pre­pare, em­power and as­sist the deaf to also in­di­vid­u­ally and equally be able to achieve pro­gres­sively the full re­al­i­sa­tion of their hu­man rights and to meet the chal­lenges of life squarely, in no less mea­sure than pro­vided the hear­ing sec­tor of so­ci­ety.

Un­ques­tion­ably, the qual­ity of their ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion needs to be dras­ti­cally im­proved. Sub­stan­ti­ated ap­peals to date to both the na­tional department and the Min­is­ter of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion have, how­ever, been met with a dis­tinct un­will­ing­ness to ad­dress and cor­rect the sit­u­a­tion.

To blithely for­sake the deaf and ren­der them to in­fe­rior ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tory in­equal­ity ev­er­more, is sim­ply in­con­ceiv­able and de­cid­edly morally in­de­fen­si­ble. MARTIN PI­ETERSE IS THE EX­EC­U­TIVE CHAIR­MAN IF THE HELP FOUN­DA­TION. YOU CAN CONTACT HIM MARTIN.PI­ETERSE@TELKOMSA.NET

Ed­i­tor’s com­ment:

Hoog tyd, sou ek sê! Martin, I want to thank you for mak­ing me aware of the sounds around me, the ocean and birds, my chil­dren’s laugh­ing, my dog’s bark­ing and the sound of mu­sic. The ques­tion is, what are we hear­ing? Do we hear when the deaf ask for ed­u­ca­tion, for a voice or a plat­form to be al­lowed equal rights to study and be em­ployed? The shock­ing re­al­ity is that we don’t.

I com­mit as ed­i­tor of BR to en­gage both the pub­lic, cor­po­rate SA and the gov­ern­ment on this is­sue and see how we can hold con­struc­tive dis­cus­sions on how we can turn this bleak sit­u­a­tion around.

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