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National accolade for Dr Philemon Akach
2013-10-21

 

Dr Philemon Akach
Photo: Sonia Small
21 October 2013


Excellence in Teaching and Learning is highly regarded at the University of the Free State, with our academics recognised on national and international platform.

Earning yet another accolade for the university, Dr Philemon Akach, Head of the Department of South African Sign Language, has been awarded a National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award. The award by the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA) and Council on Higher Education (CHE), recognised Dr Akach as a “leader in the field of teaching and learning – with impact beyond the classroom and the institution.” Recognising his pioneering work within deaf education, HELTASA and CHE commend Dr Akach as an “inspirational practitioner who recognises the inclusion of the marginalised in education.”

Dr Akach is one of five recipients, selected out of a total of 22 candidates from across South Africa that will receive the award. The other winners are from the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Pretoria. The five winners will receive the awards at a gala dinner at the annual HELTASA conference, which takes place from 26 to 29 November 2013.

Dr Akach, who will retire at the end of 2014, says the national recognition is the cherry on top as he prepares to return to his home country. Kenya. “How good can it be?” “This is my life calling,” he said about the 37 years he worked within deaf education.

The academic also received an Alumni Award for Outstanding Service at the recent Kovsie Alumni Awards.

Pioneering work by Dr Akach:

  • With Dr Akach steering the process, the UFS became the first university on the continent to offer Sign Language as an academic course in 1999.
  • Dr Akach was part of a nine-member task team that handed over the South African Sign Language (SASL) curriculum to the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. A member of the ministerial task team since 2009, he helped to coordinate the development of the curriculum that will soon be offered as a school subject to Grade 0–12 learners in all 42 schools for the deaf in South Africa.

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