So you think you can sign?

AS THE world commemorates Deaf Awareness month, the Wits Language School (WLS) has taken the awareness campaign up a notch by introducing a competition So You Think You Can Sign.

The competition is the brain child of Dr Kim Wallmach, senior lecturer and coordinator in Translation and Interpreting at the WLS, and Ayesha Ramjugernath, who teaches South African Sign Language (SASL) at Wits.

Wallmach said the purpose of the competition was raise awareness to the fact that deaf people need interpreters to communicate. “Imagine not ever being able to listen to the news,” she said.

“There are more than 600 000 deaf people in South Africa and not enough people to interpret sign language.”

Wallmach said anyone in South Africa, including schools, was welcome to enter and the deadline is the September 17th.

“People can enter in any size of group, but if the majority of group members are deaf there will be bonus points. We are trying to encourage deaf and hearing people to collaborate.”

Executive Director for the South African Translators’ Institute, Marion Boers said Deaf Awareness Month was a very valuable initiative to raise the profile of both the needs of the deaf community and the availability of persons with the necessary skills to assist them to lead a full life.

The Department of SASL will be providing a free introductory SASL class on Fridays from 2:30pm to 4pm on September 21 and 28.

Click here to see a professional interpreter’s entry to So You Think You Can Sign.


SABC criticised, yet again

The South African media serves a diverse audience in terms of class, gender, race, religious beliefs, and sexuality but offers no diversity, according to Prof Tawana Kupe, a prominent media scholar.

Kupe, Dean of the Wits Faculty of Humanities, was speaking at the launch of a report on the SABC’s (South African Broadcasting Corporation)  lack of diversity at Wits recently.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), researched and compiled the report. Thandi Smith and Lethabo Dibetso from MMA said it was critical that content by the public broadcaster represented South Africa in all its diversity.  They said they had monitored SABC’s programming from April 1, 2012 to May 15, 2012 and discovered that 76% of all programmes broadcast were in English across SABC 1, 2 and 3.

They also noted variety of children’s programmes and very few programmes that “spoke” to people in rural areas in the own languages. There was also concern over the dominance of North American programmes.

Smith said 62% of news sources were organisations’ representatives and spokespersons, and one “always knew what they were going to say”. Eighty percent of the sources were seen to be male, and they recommended that diverse and equitable sourcing be inculcated in all SABC newsrooms.

Dibetso said the SABC was failing in its mandate to “be varied and comprehensive, providing a balance of information, education and entertainment meeting the broadcasting needs of the entire South African population in terms of age, race, gender, interests and backgrounds” as stipulated in the Broadcasting Act.

Carol Mohlala, from Save our SABC Coalition said she was unhappy about the non-representation of Ndebele and Sepedi and wanted to know what ICASA and parliament were thinking about SABC’s performance.

Responding to the issue of repeats, Ingrid Bruynse from Bright Media said repeats were no always a bad thing if they related to children’s education. “But poor repeats serve absolutely nothing.”

Akieda Mohamed, representing South African Screen Federation, said her organisation had face “a bleak, bleak time for the past five years” and had a vested interest in the functioning of the public broadcaster.

Click here to read the complete report.

BBC Africa debate dissects inequality

South Africa has overtaken Brazil as the most unequal society in the world, according to BBC Africa.

Against this background, the BBC Africa Debate focused on the question “Does black and white still matter in the rainbow nation?” at a recording of the monthly show, this time at the Wits Chalsty Centre last Friday, August 31.

Wits students Este Meerkotter (19) and Palesa Phora (19) were joined by matric students Rorisang Moseli (17) from and Mitchell Black (17) on the panel of discussants. Meerkotter is studying psychology while Phora is a student in law and international relations. The panelists relied on their personal experiences as scholars and students to add value to the debate on race and equality.

Wits student Este Meerkotter speaks at the BBC Africa Debate. Pic: Wits Vuvuzela

Meerkotter said she saw Wits University as a “colour blind” institution because of the prevalent racial variety. She however felt that race was brought into issues that were not racial, but rather cultural differences.

Phora said she did not think people were being racist if they stuck with people of the same race as themselves. “People socialise with people from similar backgrounds, like black, white, Zulu, Sotho, or people from rural areas.”

Moseli, who attends a private school in Johannesburg, said he was the only black student in a class of 27. “We therefore can’t sit here and pretend that we live in an equal society,” he said. Black said efforts to use Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) to redress inequalities between blacks and whites were futile.

“BEE is not helping the man on the street. it is just helping the wealthy get wealthier.” This met with dissent from some members of the audience who felt BEE was being twisted by “the biased liberal media” to make it look problematic when it was actually effective.

Among those that were given the chance to air their views was Afriforum spokesperson Ian Cameron who said that “integration is not working in South Africa because it is being forced on people”. He said it was his organisation’s belief that whites were being aggressively forced out of the economy.

Cosatu representative at the debate, Ronald Mampani said there was no way South Africa could be seen as an equal nation when “we still think of soccer as black and cricket as white. “We must see whites [mixing with blacks] at Baragwanath and at taxi ranks, not just at rugby matches and at big soccer matches. The rainbow should be seen everywhere.”

In response to a request from BBC anchor, Audrey Brown, about support for the nationalisation of mines among the audience, about three-quarters of the audience were against it. Commenting on this particular , Ziko Pali, outgoing secretary of the Wits Student Representative Council said “a debate bigger that the paranoia about losing investors [if mines get nationalised] is needed.”

The BBC Africa Debate is a monthly initiative of the BBC Africa News service which allows an invited audience to “engage robustly with a distinguished international panel to help inform global perceptions of the continent.”