At the age of 54, Mary-Anne Hodgkinson found herself back at school even though she was neither a pupil nor or a teacher.
Instead she was there as an interpreter for her daughter, Ashley Hodgkinson, 25, who was born deaf.
Hodgkinson attended classes with Ashley from Grade 10, and until she completed her tertiary studies. Last week Ashley, from Pietermaritzburg, graduated from the Embury Teacher Training Institute in Durban with a Bachelor of Education Foundation Phase.
Ashley refused to complete matric at a school for the deaf. She was enrolled to start Grade 10 at a mainstream school, St Benedict. When the family struggled to get an interpreter for her, the principal suggested her mother interpret for her.
“I looked for an interpreter but I could not find one and Ashley had to start Grade 10. The principal said I should come to classes with her so I could interpret for her in sign language. Ashley did well in her studies and so I did it until she completed her matric.”
Ashley said she had always wanted to be independent.
“I always wanted more… I wanted a university degree and felt that moving to a mainstream school would be a good start. At school we worked well together and I didn’t see her as my mother when we were in classes,” she said.
Hodgkinson was pregnant with Ashley when she contracted cytomegalovirus (CMV).
“Ashley was born profoundly deaf. Initially we took her for an oral-aural programme encouraging speech through the use of residual hearing. However, Ashley did not respond to the programme and we were advised to sign. She was a year-and-a-half when we started signing”.
She said over the years, lecturers suggested that she register to study but she refused.
“My passion was my daughter, not to be a teacher.
“Friends and classmates were very supportive. At times, she struggled with her assignments and it broke my heart but Ashley studied hard and did well.”
Ashley said as a student she faced some challenges.
“It was hard to lip-read and communicate with hearing people at the beginning but eventually it got easier. The biggest challenge was subjects such as accounting and geography which were new to me, and English as a home language because sign language was my home language. I had to do lots of extra mathematics and English lessons,” said Ashley.
Now Hodgkinson is separated from her daughter for a good cause. Ashley has moved to Johannesburg to work as a teacher at a school for the deaf.
“The move has shown me how much family support means to me. It’s nice to be independent, but everyone misses family at some stage. I enjoy working as a teacher. It is a dream come true.”