July 15, 2024

The first class to take SASL at EMbury College. Mpho Tjope (THISABILITY Newspaper-extreme right) visited to report


Story by Mpho Tjope

It was a cold Tuesday morning in Montana, Pretoria but the air inside the Embury Institute for Higher Education (Embury) was filled with warmth and excitement as students began orientation week for a new programme that offers a formal qualification in South African Sign Language (SASL).

The South African Sign Language Teachers Training Programme, run by Embury in partnership with the Development Institute for the Deaf and Blind (DIDB), is aimed at prospective teaching assistants, SASL teachers who are deaf and those interested in learning the language. Students that complete this twoyear programme qualify with a Higher Certificate in Pre-School Education.

Embury CEO, Johan Human, told ThisAbility that there were few teachers with a formal qualification in SASL, whereas appointing qualified SASL teachers is very important for SASL as a Home Language.


“The Department of Education appointed deaf SASL teaching assistants to co-teach with hearing teachers to try to close the gaps. But while deaf teaching assistants are competent in SASL, most have never received formal training in classroom practice or qualified as teachers because universities are not accessible to them, Human said.

He added that deaf teaching assistants are appointed on the lowest salary scales because they lack a formal qualification.


The Embury qualification will be offered at NQF level 5 which is qualification above grade 12. It targets various groups: deaf sign language teaching assistants who have passed matric and also those who haven’t but with recognised prior learning such as being employed at schools or other institutions that cater for the deaf.

Human said that the programme was run as a part-time, distancelearning qualification. “It will include periodic contact sessions, as well as school-based, work-integrated learning and tuition sessions at schools for the deaf or full-service school.

He added that once students had successfully completed the programme, they may enrol for a Bachelor of Education degree in Foundation Phase Teaching at Embury.

Ashley Hodgkinson is a qualified teacher who graduated from Embury in 2016 with the degree. She also happens to be deaf. She is an enthusiastic ambassador for the programme.

“I was fortunate that my mother is incredibly dedicated and acted as my interpreter in the classroom during high school and my four years of higher education,” she says. “Not everyone has my mom, and I think that this programme is a giant step towards making formal teaching qualifications more accessible to hearing-impaired students, and in turn helping to improve the standards of teaching for deaf students throughout South Africa. It is also a wonderful opportunity for hearing students who want to learn how to teach using SASL.”


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