Cape Town - Stellenbosch University (SU) has successfully graduated its first-ever deaf student, who with the assistance of South African Sign Language (SASL) interpreters graduated with her BEd Foundation Phase degree.
Passionate about teaching, 24-year-old Ilze Aäron, from Paarl, graduated with the Class of 2021 after being given the opportunity to complete her four-year degree in five years with the assistance of the university’s Language Centre and the Disability Unit.
“It feels like a dream come true. The past few months have been difficult for me and at times I thought I couldn't make it to the end. But here I am! I hope this is an eye-opener to people who stereotype deaf people and think we can't achieve the same,” said Aäron.
“I was provided with two SASL interpreters and many other forms of support. The interpreters went to every class with me and helped me with everything I needed. At other times the Language Centre provided a recording camera to record the interpreter for me to watch the recording after class.
“I would then prepare questions to ask the lecturer, through the interpreter, the next day. I’m truly grateful for what was done for me because it got me this far,” Aäron said.
Having completed her studies Aäron plans to start her teaching career at a deaf school and is also working on starting her tutoring initiative for deaf children who have learning barriers.
“I want to start a tutoring initiative that will help children with learning barriers to develop their skills. I believe that this will encourage other deaf teachers to plan the same service for their school and to help the learners to achieve their goals,” Aäron said.
SU Language Centre senior interpreter Vicki Fourie said: “Working with Ilze was such an uplifting experience. As the Language Centre’s Interpreting Service, we would like to continue working with the Disability Unit and with faculties and support staff to empower students not only to graduate, but also to have a multidimensional university life.”
“We collaborated very well with them and the Faculty of Education. It was a joint effort. The experience made us realise just how big the gap is for deaf students. We realised that, apart from educational interpreting, deaf students need support in other areas too.
“We need to create an environment at university where deaf students are not isolated; where they can participate not only in academics but also in the whole experience of university life,” Fourie said.