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January 24, 2003

Deaf march to make themselves heard

From: SABC News, South Africa - 24 Jan 2003

Deaf people are to march in all nine provinces on February 7, the day Parliament reopens, in support of South African Sign Language (SASL). The aim of the march was to lobby for and create awareness of SASL as the cornerstone of deaf education and as a basic human right of all deaf people, the Deaf Federation of South Africa (Deafsa) said in a statement.

Deafsa's demands included that SASL be recognised and implemented as an official language in the education of deaf pupils from pre-school to grade 12.

The federation called for in-service training in SASL for all teachers for the deaf, and said the education departments should accept responsibility for developing learning materials for SASL. One of the slogans of the marches would be: "SASL equals literacy for the deaf."

Kader Asmal, the Education Minister, released the draft curriculum for grade 10 to 12 for public comment in October. The curriculum provides that pupils should take two of South Africa's 11 official languages, one of which should be the medium of instruction. Although SASL enjoys constitutional recognition, it is not among the official languages. It is also not among the subjects from which grade 10 to 12 pupils can choose. At the time, Asmal promised that its inclusion would be considered. The final curriculum is expected to be released next month.

According to Nico Beaurain, Deafsa's acting national director, the standard of deaf education is extremely low. With a few exceptions, deaf learners could only take language subjects in the standard grade, which meant they could not go to university, he said. - Sapa

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