Belgium Campus iTversity Deaf internship students Violen Moonee, Yazeed Moosa and Norman Themba, are creating a website to assist members of the Deaf community as well as hearing individuals with Deaf people in their lives. The website, titled DeafHUB, mainly focusses on education and assisting Deaf learners. “We all went to a school for the Deaf and so we have personal experiences with what the issues are in schools like this, which is why we created this website,” Moonee says as he navigates through the site.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing learners make up 5% of the school population in South Africa. According to the Human Sciences Research Council, the school attendance of these learners drops significantly between their early and late school years. “I know a lot of Deaf people who leave school at grade 9 because many of the teachers in the schools for the Deaf are not fluent in sign language, which makes it very difficult for Deaf students to perform well,” comments Moonee with concern. “Education is very important. Many Deaf people get frustrated and give up. They leave school without grade 12 and are left unable to find a job. They end up settling for a substandard life surviving of the disability grant provided by the government,” adds Tshepo Mohale, a software developer at Botlhale Village.

These challenges do not end in the school environment. Hearing parents to Deaf children are often reluctant to learn sign language, whether it be because they are in denial or because their busy schedule makes it very difficult to. This not only affects their relationship with their child but also their ability to help with homework which can further hinder their child’s academic progress. “If you are unable to properly grasp the content in school and you do not have a good support system at home, how can you be expected to make something of yourself?” Moonee comments.

Moonee, Moosa and Themba created their website with the above issues in mind. The website provides video lessons for maths, English and IT directed at secondary and high school learners, the lessons are all given in SASL. “We chose to focus on these subjects as we find that Deaf people tend to struggle with Maths and English, but there is always the possibility to add more subjects in the future should the need arise,” Moone shares. The internship group, all fluent in SASL, are currently presenting the classes but expressed that should the pilot be a success, they would like to get individuals who are both fluent in SASL and fully versed in the subject matter to present.

In addition to the above, the website also contains a life skills section. This section provides important information and vocabulary pertaining to the requirements, as well as the necessary steps for everyday processes that hearing people take for granted but that Deaf people can find quite challenging. These processes include things like applying for a loan at the bank or applying for a learners licence at the traffic department. “Going to places like this is often a difficult and frustrating process for Deaf people because communication is always an issue and a lot of times we may not understand the vocabulary being used or what the requirements are. Our hope is that our website makes these processes easier for Deaf people and also assists Deaf learners and their parents” Moone concludes.