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March 2, 2004

Manto learns to sign

From: News24, South Africa - Mar 2, 2004

Johannesburg - Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has enrolled for a course in sign language, she said when launching an educational video for deaf children.

"The deaf are people like the rest of us. They have desires, dreams, ambitions, plans, problems, relationships... all the issues that all of us have to deal with. But with one big difference, they can't hear."

Tshabalala-Msimang was speaking at Eldorado Park, Johannesburg on Tuesday to launch educational material designed for deaf children.

She said society tended to classify a deaf person only according to a medical understanding of deafness. But deafness was not only a medical condition.

"Being deaf means that you belong to a separate cultural group. The department of health has taken these steps into consideration when proposing that a programme be put together that addresses life skills, healthy living in general and HIV/Aids specifically, in a way that acknowledged the very unique and specific requirements of the deaf."

Tshabalala-Msimang said the development of the material was based on the existing life skills and HIV/Aids education programme for primary and secondary schools.

She said she was convinced that the material would go a long way to empower deaf children.

She said the educational material included information about human rights and gender issues, relationships, hygiene, mental health, sexual and child abuse, sexuality, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/Aids.

"I have no doubt that these will contribute to the decline in the HIV infection rate observed in the under 20 years of age group over the past four years, said Tshabalala-Msimang.

Edited by Tisha Steyn

© 2004 News24