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March 2, 2004

Education Programme for Deaf Learners Launched

From: - Africa - Mar 2, 2004

BuaNews (Pretoria)
NEWS March 2, 2004

By David Masango And Shadi Baloyi Pretoria

Deaf learners in the country will now receive crucial life skills and education on health-related matters, particularly HIV and AIDS.

The Ministers of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Kader Asmal of Education today officially launched the South African Sign Language Videos, Learning and Teaching Support Materials at the Eldorado Park Community Hall, south of Johannesburg.

The support materials are aimed at addressing beefing up the development of learner support materials for deaf children in areas such as education about life skills, HIV and AIDS.

The programme is illustrative and uses videos presented by deaf characters using the South African Sign Language (SASL), learner activity books, educational wall charts as well as an educator manual.

It has been conceptualised, created and executed by deaf people and is specifically aimed at deaf learners.

The programme comes in phases like pre-school and Grade R, the intermediate phase and senior phase.

It covers areas such as language development for deaf learners, facts about HIV and AIDS, contracting illnesses, gender roles, peer pressure and prevention of substance abuse.

Issues of sexual harassment, coping with grief, developing realistic self-esteem as well as coping with physical and emotional changes, are also covered in the syllabus.

Learners will also get information on how to cope with relationships as well as date rape, HIV and AIDS, mental health and how to seek help for health problems.

The education packages will be provided to all 42 institutions that cater for deaf people aged three to 18 countrywide.

Speaking at the launch, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said it was important that all learners, including the deaf, start as early as possible to acquire information on a wide variety of health-related and social issues.

She said deaf children should also learn to develop the necessary and appropriate skills to deal with issues effectively and enjoy a healthy living style.

Minister Tshabalala-Msimang said her department was pleased to have initiated the project and that it was in line with the education policy regarding inclusive education, material development and was based on the existing life skills and HIV and AIDS education for primary and secondary education.

"I am convinced that the material will go a long way to empower deaf children and young people with various life skills and information on a range of social and health matters," she said.

Minister Asmal said the occasion marked the first time since two Ministries took up the challenge in the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS and that learning materials have been developed using SASL, one of the country's official languages.

"One priority was to build vital and inclusive school communities, with special attention to learners with special needs, so that learners would feel welcome in our schools," he said.

He said another priority was to deal with HIV and AIDS through education to further the national programme of prevention, treatment and care.

"Today, in launching these learning materials, I am delighted to see these two priorities coming together. We are showing once again that we were serious in calling for action to build inclusive school communities of learning and health," he said.

A series of three-day workshops are currently being held for educators to help them understand the programme.

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