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21 May 2019 | Story Igno van Niekerk | Photo Stephen Collett
Digital storytelling
Collaborating for the common good are from left: Willem Ellis, Karen Venter, Dr Deidre van Rooyen, Prof Hendri Kroukamp, Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, and Dr Johan van Zyl.

Prof Hendri Kroukamp, Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences quoted the Cat Stevens song I can’t keep it in, to capture the excitement surrounding the opening of a Digital Storytelling Lab on the Bloemfontein Campus on 10 May 2019.

After months of hard work by Dr Deidre van Rooyen, Willem Ellis, Karen Venter, as well as the staff of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Centre for Development Support, the Common Good First lab was completed just in time for the launch attended by about 50 delegates from other South African universities, as well as private and public institutions.

Stories meet technology

In a message, from Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Vice-Rector: Institutional Change, Student Affairs, and Community Engagement, informed the audience that the launch heralded the joining of the old world of stories with the new world of digital technology. Julie Adair, Director of Digital Collaboration at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, welcomed the UFS as a partner to this international social innovation collaborative project in a video message. 

Dr Van Rooyen, the project manager for the UFS, explained how she got involved in the Common Good First project, what the benefits of digital storytelling are, as well as what opportunities the lab creates for cooperation between role players involved in social innovation projects. 

Why the Common Good First lab?

The purpose of the lab is to create a digital network to identify, showcase and connect social innovation projects in South Africa to one another and to universities around the world for research, student engagement and learning and teaching. The lab has been fitted with state-of-the-art equipment for recording and digitising the stories that result from social innovation projects.

In a live Skype session with Dr Il-Haam Petersen, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), and some of the recent successes of the digital stories in Philippi in the Western Cape were shared.

Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, UFS Director Community Engagement did the final honours by cutting the ribbon, declaring the lab open, and sharing the dream that the work done in this lab will contribute to positive relationships and cooperation between the university and the community, in making not only the university, but the country and the world a better place.


News Archive

UFS hosts sign language workshop to educate parents
2017-05-22

Description: Sign language workshop to educate parents Tags: Sign language workshop to educate parents

Back row; from left; John Keitsemore from
Bartimea School for the Deaf; Philip Cook,
the headmaster at De la Bat School for the
Deaf in Worcester; Jeannie Cook, De la Bat School
for the Deaf; front, from left; Marisa Vermeulen, mother
of two deaf children and teacher at Bartimea
School for the Deaf in Thaba Nchu; Marianne Kühn,
audiologist, and Susan Lombaard, acting Head of the
Department of South African Sign Language.
Photo: Rulanzen Martin

“Ninety percent of deaf children are born into hearing families. When parents first receive the news, they are shocked, angry and confused,” says Susan Lombaard, Acting head of the Department of South African Sign Language at the University of the Free State (UFS).

The department hosted a workshop, “Early intervention options for the child with a hearing loss”, on Friday 12 May 2017 on the Bloemfontein Campus. “It is the first time a sign language workshop of this kind was hosted by the Department of South African Sign Language at the UFS,” says Lombaard, who facilitated the workshop. They hope to make it an annual event.

Parents of deaf children do not always know how they will communicate with their children or where the child must attend school. The workshop aimed to provide parents with the necessary information on different communication options and also touched on school placement.

Support group for parents established
A support group for parents was also established, the first of its kind in the province. It will provide much-needed support, information and guidance for parents of deaf children.

Some of the speakers at the workshop included Anri Esterhuizen, an audiologist; Marianne Kühn from the Carel du Toit Centre, Marisa Vermeulen, who is a mother of two deaf children, and Phillip Cook, the headmaster at De la Bat School for the Deaf in Worcester, in the Western Cape. Jeannie Cook, also a presenter, provided information on sign language acquisition of the small deaf child, which is done through creative play.

Professionals have responsibility
South African Sign Language is a language in its own right and is not international. “Sign language is a visual language with its own grammar and syntax different from spoken language,” Lombaard said.

There has been much controversy surrounding teaching deaf children to speak and teaching them to sign. “We as professionals have the responsibility to provide information on all options. This is to help the parent make informed decisions about communication and school placement.”

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