In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • A Parent’s Perspective on Deaf Education in South Africa
  • Dorothy Rasebopye (bio)


Lorato Rasebopye is the first daughter of Dorothy and Davis Rasebopye. She was born with normal hearing, which she retained up to the age of 31½2 years. At this stage she had developed very well in speech and was able to express herself well for a child of that age. After her third birthday, she started showing signs of a slowing speech. The identification of a deteriorating speech started a long process of medical tests to identify the cause of the problem. There was no identified cause of this problem—medically or physically.

Deafness in urban areas was not well attended to, and as a result there was little information on how to deal with it. There were no formal structures to support the Deaf or their families. The available schools were far away and mostly did not reach high levels of education. Many of the Deaf people who were seen did not have meaningful or good jobs, and they did “arts and crafts,” which frequently did not provide enough income to improve their standard of living.

The diagnosis of Lorato’s deafness implied that she would be one of those doing “arts and crafts” for a living, as that was the only means accessible for most Black Deaf people at that time.

Challenges Experienced

Family Orientation

Our family’s vocabulary for signs was zero, and thus it took mostly observation and inconsistent hand signs to communicate with Lorato. The results were poor self-expression and reduced social interaction.

Preschool Education

Before her deafness, Lorato was attending a preschool where the vernacular was taught. When her speech stopped progressing, and she was subsequently diagnosed with a hearing loss, there was no kindergarten that could accommodate her disability, and her attendance was not beneficial for language development or any form of communication. She did not benefit in any way in terms of language, communication, or any other form of education.

Primary Education

When Lorato started her primary education, it was the beginning of her being separated from her primary family, as the schools for the Deaf were all far away and inconvenient for working parents. She started at a school that was more than 110 km (about 70 [End Page 508] miles) from her primary home, and 20 km (about 13 miles) from her secondary home.

For the first 2 years of her schooling, it was difficult to gauge her progress as her books showed none of the structure of the lessons that were being provided. In the third year of her schooling, she started bringing home some wooden craftwork she had done at school. This was a sign that she was being prepared for a life of living from handicrafts, as was the case with many Black disabled people in South Africa at the time.

South African politics were in transition, and the White schools were then being opened to Black people. This was very welcome because there was better education; structured learning was provided. This is when we started learning to communicate with signs, and began teaching the other family members.

Lorato passed her senior certificate, which we later learned was not of the same standard as those of other hearing schools. But this achievement still far outweighed being developed into a poorly educated craftsperson. She could enter a university or any other tertiary institute with the certificate she had earned.

Tertiary Education

The primary schooling was easier because the school specially catered to Deaf people. With a postmatriculation/ senior certificate, the world became too big for Deaf students; they suddenly got scattered because of the different fields of study they chose, and some dropped out due to a lack of funds to proceed with their studies, as the government and learning institutions had no infrastructure to accommodate or support them.

There was no support for Deaf students except for the University of Witwatersrand, which could provide a sign language interpreter. Other learning institutes did not have such a facility, and we had to devise means to ensure that Lorato furthered her studies at a different learning institute. The lecturers were not willing to...


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pp. 508-509
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