Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Employ & Empower Deaf

The 8th of June 2015, marked the 8th consecutive year that eDeaf, has successfully been employing and empowering the Deaf community. 
eDeaf was the brainchild of Jesse Kotzé and Nazereen Bhana. Jesse, born to Deaf parents has always been acutely aware of the struggles Deaf people in South Africa are facing. Nazereen, born Deaf, has first-hand experience of what it means to be Deaf within a South African context. Fuelled by a desire to see the Deaf community empowered, and recognizing the need to improve the low literacy levels amongst the Deaf community, the first office in Braamfontein, Johannesburg was established.

The current unemployment rate in the Deaf community is 75%, which is alarmingly high. There are 47 schools for the Deaf, but only 10 offer matric. Therefore, the majority of Deaf learners leaving the education system are prevented from progressing to a tertiary education. Further hampering Deaf learners is the way in which many are educated; only 14% of teachers within the Deaf education system use South African Sign Language to a proficient level. This inhibits the Deaf learners’ ability to read and write proficiently.

Bhana points out “Typically, learners within the mainstream education system are taught by a person who is not fluent in South African Sign Language. The impact on Deaf learners not being taught in their own language is a shortfall in their ability to communicate. Consequently, the majority attempting to gain entry to the South African workforce is unsuccessful.”

The obvious solution was to bridge these skills through training. eDEAF learning centers were opened to address these immediate shortfalls. Today, the eDEAF learning centers ( Braamfontein, Centurion, Durban and Cape Town) offer 33 separate training modules at various levels of competence, forming part of learnerships Each module builds on previous ones to allow the leaners to advance.

As part of the application process all potential candidates are assessed to evaluate their reading and writing competency, in addition to an aptitude test. This evaluation process indicates at which level the student will begin training. “Many of our learners need to go back to basics; which is level 1 - basic early adulthood learning. Subject to the outcome of their initial evaluation, leaners embark on an ABET journey, completing one module every six months,” confirms Bhana.

Following the completion of beginner and subsequent intermediate courses, additional business practice training is offered. The wholesale & retail sector and the Information Technology sector, remain avenues where Deaf people not only add value to the market but also excel and surpass expectations of the employer.

eDeaf is a proudly Deaf majority shareholder company that comprises of 38 deaf and 8 hearing employees. eDeaf has since opened additional branches in Centurion and Durban to extend its footprint and reach more members of the Deaf community.

In just under a decade eDEAF has secured the placement of 2500 Deaf candidates in 200 organisations nationally with 80% employment retention. In doing so, many high profile corporate companies have changed their incorrect perception and stereotypes associated with placing a person with a “hearing disability”. There are currently 530 learners within the training centres nationally, boasting a 90% retention.

As prioritised by Government and further endorsed by the South African private sector, companies can contribute to their skills development aspirations of potential Deaf employees through learnerships with eDeaf as an accredited training provider.

This provides the sponsorship/host company with not only a tax rebate on its skills development spend, but also a positive reflection on their BB-BEE status. Each learner receives a monthly subsistence allowance to cover basic transportation and meal costs. Learners spend between two and four years at the training centers. Upon completion of their courses, they graduate with the relevant NQF level qualification and are well equipped to enter the workforce at entry level.

Learnership programmes include foundational English, “heads up”, Business practice and Microsoft End User Computing.

eDEAF has partnered with the likes of Microsoft and iSolve to adequately skill learners within this sector. eDeaf is the first Deaf owned Mircosoft Training Academy of its kind in South Africa. The transport and logistics sector is another avenue, which is currently being investigated.

Incidental learning is a form of indirect or unplanned learning in either a formal or informal situation. For the hearing majority, incidental learning is a daily occurrence, for example, listening to the radio, watching television or overhearing corridor talk. This form of learning is vital to a person’s overall general knowledge. This, however, is a challenge for the Deaf Community where access to information has to be consciously facilitated. eDEAF’s teaching methodology makes provision within its syllabus and encourages this vital form of learning. Daily focus is placed on current events and issues both nationally and internationally through the News 24 app or newspaper clippings. Urged by their facilitators, the learners openly talk about these events in an effort to create debate and a firm opinion and/or understanding of current events and issues, an exercise that develops critical thinking skills.

Amply qualified Deaf facilitators and mediators in line with the eDEAF philosophy, which was founded on the concept of a Deaf Learner being taught by a Deaf teacher, facilitate all training. eDeaf boasts the first Deaf qualified moderators in South Africa. This not only permits learners to be taught in their mother tongue; but by a person who understands their challenges as well as the Deaf culture.

A long-term goal of eDeaf is to ensure all South African Sign Language Interpreters are accredited through the South African Translators Institute (SATI), which promotes a specific code of ethics, and ensures that standards are met. Currently there are eight accredited (SATI) South African Sign Language interpreters nationally, servicing 500 000 people falling within the Deaf Community.

Due to the scarcity of accredited Sign Language Interpreters, organisations with Deaf employees should not rely solely on interpreters. Forming part of eDEAFs sensitization programmes, communication through basic South African Sign Language as well as the inherent importance of visual communication is clarified. It is, advised, however, that a suitably qualified South African Sign Language Interpreter is present during official procedures such as interviews, feedback sessions and disciplinary hearings, as part of eDeaf’s holistic services provided.

The eDEAF strategy and subsequent philosophy is simple ‘Employ and Empower’ the Deaf. “
eDEAF, is a B-BBEE level 1 organisation and further qualifies as an Enterprise Development and Skills Development beneficiary in line with the Revised Codes of Good Practice.

We look forward to welcoming the Espresso team to our Braamfontein Centre ( 22 Solomon Street, corner Smit Street, Braamfontein- for directions, )

Welcome to visit us any day, (but Wednesdays- least number of learners p/week) , we have over 200 Deaf learners & 20 staff at Braamfontein: all training rooms will be open, welcome to film, interview, both learners & facilitators, any of the eDeaf team members. We will arrange for interpreter on the day.

Kind regards


Jesse Kotze 
Managing Member
Tel: 011 837 7432
Fax: 086 531 5057
Cell: 082 331 1610

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