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Deaf Developers graduate from iSchoolAfrica

The inaugural programme aims to empower deaf youth for a future of employment.

A cohort of eight students have graduated from the inaugural  iSchoolAfrica Deaf Developers Programme. 

In a stride toward creating a more inclusive society and workforce, education initiative iSchoolAfrica has launched the transformative programme, funded by a grant from SAB Foundation, with support and funding from Core Group. It is aimed at giving unemployed Deaf youth cutting-edge skills in iOS app development, opening pathways to future income, while fostering inclusivity in society.

Initiatives like the iSchoolAfrica Deaf Developers Programme break down barriers, empower individuals and foster workplaces where every person is valued and included.

The landmark development coincides with the official recognition of South African Sign Language as the 12th official language in South Africa. 

The 2023 cohort of eight students immersed themselves in a comprehensive post-graduate certificate programme in app development, centred on Apple’s coding language, Swift. The programme equips these young talents with vital skills needed for app development, and cultivates their confidence and competence to thrive in the competitive tech industry.

“The iSchoolAfrica team has designed the Deaf Developers Programme to transform the narrative of disabled youth unemployment in South Africa,” says Michelle Lissoos, director of iSchoolAfrica. “We are often asked what success will look like for this programme. There are a few levels of success. 

“There is a critical need for app developers with disabilities to be creating applications that will solve barriers faced by people with disabilities. We hope to see apps created by our students to serve this community. We also hope that they will thrive as developers in accessible workspaces – and that biases are broken down for the employment of future youth with disabilities. 

“We know that their success will not only benefit the disabled community but society as a whole. And that this is the first of many cohorts the Deaf Developers Programme will enable.”

The Deaf Developers Programme is a meticulously crafted nine-month journey that encompasses various elements aimed at ensuring holistic learning and practical application. Each participant is provided with a MacBook for the duration of the programme, ensuring they have the tools to participate effectively in their learning journey. 

The programme employs a hybrid approach, integrating South African Sign Language (SASL) interpreters, thereby ensuring clear and effective communication channels. As a testament to their growth, participants are poised to tackle industry-related projects upon completion of the course, applying their newfound skills and gaining hands-on experience.

Through the programme it came to light that there were certain specific coding terms that were not part of South African Sign Language. An innovation of this programme included the contribution of more than 100 new coding terms to the sign language dictionary.

iSchoolAfrica disability inclusion programme manager Chelsea Williamson underscored the significance of this initiative, says: “Inclusion is not just a word; it’s an imperative. The Deaf Developers Programme opens doors for deaf individuals to shine, enabling them to contribute their talents to the tech ecosystem.”

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