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Rhodes > English Language and Linguistics > Latest News

A Deaf teacher tells his story

Date Released: Fri, 15 May 2015 22:34 +0200

Mfundo Lebaka, a Deaf teacher visiting the Department of English Language and Linguistics, told the story of his challenges in accessing education at a public talk on Thursday 14 May 2015 as part of Disability Week.  He amazed the audience with his description of life as a Deaf person in a hearing world.  He signed the talk in South African Sign Language (SASL), and it was interpreted into English by Asanda Katshwa, an accomplished South African Sign Language interpreter currently based in East London. 

Mfundo was born deaf to hearing parents.  He told of how his parents discovered that he could not hear and wanted a second and even a third opinion before they could accept that he was deaf.  He was only exposed to language at the age of four when he first went to a Deaf kindergarten.

Mfundo grew up in the Eastern Cape, but had to move to Johannesburg and later to Durban to attend high school, as his Deaf school in the Eastern Cape only went up to Grade Seven at the time.  He has also struggled to access higher education.  When he was accepted to study at universities which were supposed to accommodate Deaf people, the sign language interpreters that were provided for his courses were either untrained, or used American Sign Language rather than South African Sign Language.  Mfundo eventually dropped out of university due to a lack of access. 

Mfundo moved back to East London, where he became involved with the Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign, teaching literacy to Deaf adults.  He was recently awarded as the third best Kha Ri Gude Inclusive Education Volunteer Supervisor in South Africa at the 2015 National Teaching Awards.  He is also a Social Auxiliary Worker for DeafSA (the Deaf Federation of South Africa) in the Eastern Cape.  He has started studying education again, through the University of South Africa (UNISA).

At Rhodes University, Mfundo and Asanda are teaching basic South African Sign Language (SASL) to our English Language and Linguistics 2 class from 12 to 22 May.  Both Mfundo and Asanda have done this twice before, and have also given the department invaluable assistance with research into South African Sign Language.

Source:Ian Siebörger