Deaf student becomes a teacher 10 years after matriculating

When Imran Bodalaji was in grade nine, he dreamt of becoming a teacher – even though he was deaf and the odds were stacked against him.

By Jolene Marriah-Maharaj – Live Editor IOL News

Ten years after matriculating, Bodalaji, 29, has realised his dream.

He recently graduated from Stellenbosch University with his BEd degree.

According to the university, Bodalaji is the only second deaf student to achieve this goal.

Born in Worcester, Bodalaji’s parents discovered he was deaf when he was six months old.

He started his primary education at a mainstream school but attended De La Bat School in grade three.

“The transition from a mainstream hearing school to a deaf school helped me greatly as I felt included and understood,” said Bodajali.

“I could also connect with teachers and fellow learners as Sign Language helped to understand information correctly. This resulted in better academic and holistic performance.”

He said it was his late grandmother, Ayesha Bibi Dawood, and teachers at his school who provided him with “unlimited love, support and motivation” that inspired him to pursue teaching.

His journey to achieving his degree was met with many challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bodalaji matriculated in 2012 and then completed a course in Early Childhood Development (ECD) Level four and went up to level five two years later.

“I then found out that I needed an appropriate education qualification to become a qualified educator, as level 5 only equipped me to be a crèche educator. I applied to various universities to complete a BEd degree but was unsuccessful as I did not meet the criteria.”

He said he refused to give up on his dream, and in order to meet the criteria rewrote, two subjects.

Bodalaji also completed a short course in South African Sign language (SASL) literature at Stellenbosch University.

He said he chose Stellenbosch University to pursue his dream as he knew they would best be able to accommodate his needs.

In 2017, he finally enrolled at the university, and the journey began.

“The Disability Unit and the Language Centre provided individualised support by giving me access to two SASL interpreters who attended every lecture and meeting with me.

“They stood in front of the class to interpret the lecture and explain the work to me. They also made sure we had access to learning material.

“I feel the university provided more than enough effective long-term assistance, which was individualised to support the holistic well-being of a Deaf student.”

In 2021, Bodalaji said in the aftermath of Covid-19, he felt he had burnout and thought he would never finish his degree.

“I was provided a mentor, Dr Claudia Saunderson, who believed in me and supported me towards the end of completing the degree successfully.

“She mentored me in balancing academics with personal life.”

Future plans?

Bodalaji’s wants to work in the education sector, specifically in teaching learners using South African Sign Language.

“My dream is for Deaf learners to learn South African Sign Language so that they do not have to assimilate to fit in to receive an education in South Africa.

“Deaf learners should be given endless opportunities to grow – in schooling and post-schooling to achieve anything they set their minds to.

“And we, as qualified Deaf SASL teachers, need to work together to promote ownership of SA Sign Language in our Deaf community and come up with innovative plans to empower, strengthen and support one another.”



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