Belgium Campus, a small private university in Pretoria, South Africa, produces more than 10 percent of the country’s IT professionals and now it’s blazing new trails with a program for the deaf.
With just 600 students, Belgium Campus claims a 100 percent employment rate.
“Like many countries around the world, (South African) companies have to employ disabled people … but no one is training them,” said Enrico Jacobs, Belgium Campus vice chancellor. “The deaf community has been left behind. If you’re in a wheelchair, you can attend any major university across the country, but if you are deaf you still won’t be able to hear what the professor is saying.”
South Africa’s deaf population — including those hard of hearing — is more than 400,000.
“These students are very ready for higher education, but our universities simply do not cater to this community,” Jacobs said.
Belgium Campus’ new four-year diploma in information technology has eight deaf students with sign language interpreters to translate during lectures.
The program includes a year of in-service training with a company.
Eight deaf students is the maximum in one classroom, Jacobs said. “A lot of the language doesn’t exist within sign language which means a lot has to be created. There are also new concepts which means the pace is a lot slower.”
In their first year, deaf students attend dedicated classes. From their second year, they will attend mixed classes, encouraging interaction between deaf and hearing students as they work together on projects. All students are learning from each other how to communicate.
“It’s actually a greater experience for the hearing students,” Jacobs said. “All of our students (and staff) are now going through sign language courses.”
Read more at htxt.
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