CAPE TOWN - Dear Readers of Business Report (BR).
I celebrated my first anniversary as executive business editor of Independent Media last week.
I thank our chairman, Dr Iqbal Survé, for allowing me, and entrusting me, to serve our country in a special way.
I want to thank the BR team for their commitment and dedication, for delivering world class articles, for the many extra hours they worked, for the many miles they traveled, for the guts to take on big companies on corruption, for their kindness when least expected but mostly, for their commitment towards delivering breaking news, investigative articles and solid reporting to you, our loyal readers. Sechaba ka’ Nkosi, Philippa Larkin, Roy Cokayne, Kabelo Khumalo, Sizwe Dlamini, Siseko Njobeni, Dineo Faku, Sandile Mchunu, Luyolo Mkentane, Joseph Booysen, Viasen Soobramoney, Mashudu Malema, Vernon Pillay, Ashley Lechman, Tracia Deyce, Martin Hesse, Arnie Hicks, and BR freelance contributors the likes of Ryk de Klerk, Dr Prieur du Plessis, Wesley Diphoko, Dr Chris Harmse, Amelia Morgenrood and many others, I salute you.
Thank you for your support, together, we achieved more than was published in print and on-line, we've changed the narrative. We not only report business news but we created a platform for Africans to communicate a message of hope.
A plea that touched me
Editors all over the world receive letters from readers. I aim to respond to most. Not all letters lead to something big. I was honoured to receive such a letter from a twice-retired person last week, an icon, a man that fights for the rights of those deprived of the privilege of “hearing”. Mr Marin Pieterse.
As mentioned to you, my reason for contacting you was as a follow-up to your impressive article on Sagarmatha Technologies IAB with “an array of heavyweight investors and business leaders”.I believe these investors could perhaps play a constructive CSI role in supporting the deaf education cause in South Africa. The fact remains, that presently educationally not much is being done for the deaf. “As a distinctive community in South Africa, the deaf, comprising some 1.6 million persons, are intercultural, span all walks of society, gender, race and creed, are largely from vulnerable lower socio-economic and less privileged circumstance, spread in small indigenous groupings across the country. The current wanting deaf basic education provision is demonstrated in a virtual absence of quality pre-school formative grounding.There is an extremely restricted number of special schools (with a ratio of one school for 38 000 members of the deaf community, compared to 2 000 for the general population); unlawfully low statutory learner enlistment (with only 5.5 percent of the obligated deaf learners enrolled, compared to a general population enrolment of 129.6 percent); increasing paucity of deaf special needs education-trained educators (less than 25 percent currently having appropriate training, and only 10 percent conversant in sign language). There is an inferior quality deaf education proffering – based upon a hearing core curriculum (with an early learner drop-out figure as high as 80 percent in some cases and only 31 percent of designated schools providing tuition to Grade 12).This results in the majority of deaf learners eventually leaving school largely uneducated with abysmally poor functional literacy, numeracy and life-skills grooming levels, and, faced with an unenlightened and largely unsympathetic employer sector, suffering a devastating 90 percent unemployment rate – 337 percent higher than the national hearing unemployed level.
This situation has calamitous.
In effect, the deaf, notwithstanding their inherent intelligence and capabilities, and right to equal citizenship, are as a vulnerable population grouping silently being consigned by an unsympathetic basic education system to lesser citizenship, frustrated and unfulfilled, and forever entirely dependent upon state social grant pittances for their very survival.
Left unchecked the untenable status quo will eventually lead to a total collapse of the fabric of the deaf society in South Africa.
That presently educationally not being done for the deaf – or worse yet, knowingly perpetrated against them – is in direct variance with the tenets of the South African Constitution and the United Nations’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Tangible measures need therefore to be urgently instituted to materially prepare, empower and assist the deaf to also individually and equally be able to achieve progressively the full realisation of their human rights and to meet the challenges of life squarely, in no less measure than provided the hearing sector of society.
Unquestionably, the quality of their basic education needs to be drastically improved. Substantiated appeals to date to both the national department and the Minister of Basic Education have, however, been met with a distinct unwillingness to address and correct the situation.
To blithely forsake the deaf and render them to inferior basic education and discriminatory inequality evermore, is simply inconceivable and decidedly morally indefensible.
Hoog tyd, sou ek sê! Martin, I want to thank you for making me aware of the sounds around me, the ocean and birds, my children’s laughing, my dog’s barking and the sound of music.
The question is, what are we hearing? Do we hear when the deaf ask for education, for a voice or a platform to be allowed equal rights to study and be employed? The shocking reality is that we don’t.
I commit as editor of BR to engage both the public, corporate SA and the government on this issue and see how we can hold constructive discussions on how we can turn this bleak situation around.
Adri Senekal de wet is the Executive Editor at Independent Media Business Report.