MEC for Education, Fundile Gade, urged government departments to take sign language seriously, as this could be an easy way of communicating with people who are hearing impaired.
Gade said this while he was launching Deaf Month at Efata School for the Blind in Mthatha, last week. He said government had to make sure that they intervened in this problem because it is not only facing the Department of Education, but also all sectors have the same problem.
“For instance we have a case of the deputy principal of this school, Nodumo Mzimane, who was murdered in July 2015. Her case has taken some years to be finalised because there was a problem of finding an interpreter who knows how to communicate using sign language.
This has taught us that the problem of social cohesion is not in the Department of Education only, but for all the people,” said Gade.
He said they had taken a further step to ensure that sign language is placed in the centre of the curriculum in the Eastern Cape. Gade added that they would look for professionals who could teach learners and to identify teachers who could go and learn this language.
“Also, we need to introduce professionals who would assist in other departments by interpreting using this kind of language when there is a need to do so, and even in court.”
The chief language practitioner for the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB), Lukhanyo Sigonyela, said they wanted sign language to be made the 12th official language in South Africa.
He said they want people to be allowed to study using their own languages, including sign language.
“Even if the person is deaf, he/she still has rights, so we must know that it is their right to use this language. As PANSALB, we would make sure that their right to use this language was not undermined.
One of the learners, Sibulele Yamaphi, said they would learn to use this language because they were struggling to be understood.
“This is a serious problem for us, particularly to travel using public transport. We also belong to a community, so it would be easier for us to communicate with the society.
“We appeal to government to take this matter further,” said Yamaphi.