Thursday, 13 September 2018
12 September 2018: The Deputy Minister of the Department of Social Development, Mrs Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, in partnership with MTN SA, unveiled two state-of-the-art computer centres at the Efata School for the Blind and Deaf in the Eastern Cape on 12 September 2018.

For Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu, the inclusion of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in schools is not only a mandate as per the National Development Plan 2030 which requires the Department of Social Development to systematise guidelines, norms and standards to ensure that they take into account the needs of children with disabilities in all communities – it is also a personal initiative.

As a visually-impaired person, Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu keeps the need for communication from, and to, persons with disabilities close to her heart.

“I’m a visually-impaired Deputy Minister and I use ICT in order to be on par with my peers. This is one of the reasons why I am passionate about ensuring that no disabled child is left behind when we have access to ICT solutions,” said Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu.

Part of today’s announcements was the fact that the Department, together with the MTN SA Foundation, secured the services of sign language tutors to help parents of deaf children to learn sign language in order to be able to communicate with their children. This, according to the Acting Principal, Ms Yolande Mtwa, has been the school’s stumbling block for many years.

“One of the challenges we have faced as a school is that of communication between parents and their children. The school has turned into the only place where some of the children are understood. Often, we have found that parents do not know sign language and children are not able to communicate with their own parents about anything. You can imagine how difficult it is, for example, when teenagers need to communicate about bodily changes to the people closest to them but there is no reciprocation due to the communication barriers,” Ms Mtwa expressed.

The Department formed the PPP with MTN SA in 2014 and 36 computer centres to the tune of R54 million have been launched thus far.

The computer centres at the Efata School for the Blind and Deaf, one which is programmed for blind children and the other which is programmed for deaf children, comprise of 22-computers and interactive projecting monitors.

“We had to install two different computer laboratories at this school because the needs of blind children and those of deaf children differ even though this school caters for both kinds of disabilities,” said Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu during a parents’ meeting at the school today.

To ensure that the blind children receive the braille educational material that they need for their respective curricula, the Deputy Minister revealed a printer with Duxbury Braille Translator Software which converts print-based text to braille and vice versa. “Blind children can now have their braille educational material printed out in a matter of seconds during lessons. They also each have earphones so that they can listen to their lessons at their own pace,” Deputy Minister told a hall full of teachers, parents and members of the SGB.

The computers in this centre are also programmed with Jaws – which is a Microsoft Windows program that has a braille display and a text-to-speech audio reader.

The Department, in partnership with the MTN SA Foundation, will launch 40 computer centres for children with disabilities by the end of 2018.


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