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Research collaboration to embrace resilience of deaf youth in SA

- Wits University

Wits University partners with the University of Manchester for an innovative research collaboration to embrace the resilience of deaf youth in SA.

A research project by the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Manchester (UK) will use community based film methods to explore issues of vulnerability and resilience that deaf youth face in South Africa.

Deaf children and youth face discrimination and exclusion from society. They are not given adequate opportunities for acquiring language, building meaningful relationships, receiving specialised healthcare and receiving equal education. All this vastly decreases their life-chances and infringes their human rights. A multi-disciplinary international collaboration, supported by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Medical Research Council and the Global Challenges Research Fund, brings visual anthropology, social research and deaf studies together to enlighten and positively shift social attitudes towards deaf children and youth.


The University of Manchester’s Social Research with Deaf people group (SORD) and the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology (GCVA) in partnership with the Centre for Deaf Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand (CFDS), will over the next eighteen months, explore how to research and represent deaf life worlds through a sensorial and phenomenological approach to film/filmmaking.

The first work package, Inspiring Futures, begins in March 2018 and aims to enhance positive self-esteem in deaf youth and alter society’s attitudes to what is possible for deaf children in South Africa. The second, Keeping Safe, will focus on addressing issues of vulnerability and risk that deaf children face. The work has been planned and will be delivered in close partnership with NGOs HI HOPES and THRIVE and is endorsed by the Department of Health, South Africa. In all aspects, parents of deaf children, Deaf and hearing people will collaborate to achieve this ambitious programme.

“Resilience is about bouncing back in the face of adversity. Deaf young people face very particular challenges in achieving their potential and becoming full citizens. As visual people, they also have unique resources on which to draw. Through the use of community based film methods, this project tunes in to those latent strengths as visual learners with the capacity to develop new resiliencies given the right opportunities. The work is pioneering”, says Professors Alys Young and Andrew Irving, University of Manchester.

“We are thrilled to be launching this multi-disciplinary research collaboration in the year that the Wits Centre for Deaf Studies celebrates its 20th anniversary”, says Professor Claudine Storbeck, Director for the Centre of Deaf Studies, University of the Witwatersrand.