Of South Africa’s 50 Million people, an estimated 4 million live with disability, of those four million, 20% suffer hearing loss. The month of September is Deaf Awareness month here in SA. Let’s take a look at some of the stats to help us possibly gain a better understanding of this silent or partially silent world.
Unlocking the silence
NGO’s and Civil society groups were founded in South Africa as early as 1929 to organize the movement for Deaf person’s rights and formalise ”Deaf culture”.
An estimated 600 000 -800 000 thousand people use the South African variant of Sign language, efforts are underway to make it the 12th Official Language of the Country.
There are 40 recognized schools for deaf education, ranging from adult literacy programmes right up to and including a grade 1-12 syllabus, most of these school are run by the above organizations or civil society with funding also being provided by government and through charity.
However 40 schools is nowhere near enough to serve the needed space, due to South Africa’s history and socio-economic conditions, unemployment in deaf people is incredibly high sitting at a shocking 75%.
Due to a lack of education and proper skills training, these adults and children have little prospect in life, not only do many suffer from the same perils of most South Africans (whether they be economic, social or because of crime) but they have the added issue of being deaf, which greatly reduces their chances of employment. For Females and African people, the unemployment rate is even higher.
In a country with so much potential and so many problems, the plight of the disabled (not only deaf) is often lost in the sea of noise of all our other problems, however attention must be paid to this issue, these are our family and friends cannot afford treatment or be able to participate in skills development programmes, as they just can’t get there or there are not enough facilities offering these development programmes.
I know that most of you can hear the noise around you, but stick your fingers in your ears for a moment and imagine your world if this was all you could hear every day for the rest of your life.
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