outh Africa’s first sign language teachers’ training programme was launched on Monday, aimed at prospective sign language teachers and deaf teaching assistants.

The move could prove to be a boon for not only teachers, but also for South Africa’s more than four million deaf or hard of hearing people, especially children.

“The course is aimed at deaf teaching assistants and prospective South African sign language (SASL) teachers,” said Embury Institute for Higher Education in a statement on Monday.

The programme, in partnership with the Development Institute for the Deaf and Blind (DIDB), is aimed at equipping students with a Higher Certificate in pre-school education.

Appointing qualified SA sign language teachers is a prerequisite for the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) for the subject SA Sign Language (SASL) as a home language, which came into implementation in 2015, according to Embury CEO, Johan Human.

“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,” said Human.

The Embury qualification will be offered at NQF 5 level and the course will be run at the institution’s Montana Campus in Pretoria as a part-time distance-learning qualification.  Ashley Hodgkinson, a 2016 Embury graduate, lauded 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.

“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,” she said.

The first batch of students are expected to begin their studies in July 2019 and complete their course in June 2021.