A still from an upcoming episode of Takalani Sesame featuring a Deaf father, Rivaj Ramjugernath, interviewed for this article
A still from an upcoming episode of Takalani Sesame featuring a Deaf father, Rivaj Ramjugernath, interviewed for this article.

On May 15, we celebrate International Day of Families. The theme for 2024 is “Embracing Diversity, Strengthening Families,” which recognizes that when the diversity of society and all families is embraced, parents and families are supported in caring for each other.

In recognition of the diversity of all families, Sesame Workshop South Africa has worked closely with the Centre for Deaf Studies to offer support to parents with disabilities. In a special feature, Sesame showcases the inspiring journey of Rivaj Ramjugernath, a Deaf father with hearing children, as he overcomes daily challenges and finds creative ways to enhance communication with his children and help them learn, grow, and thrive.      

Below is the story of Rivaj Ramjugernath, the Deaf father who has shared his parenting experiences in support of this article. 

Meet Rivaj Ramjugernath, 44, who hails from South Africa. Married for 14 years, he is  a proud father of two hearing children. By profession, he serves as an IT Analyst Developer at the University of South Africa, where he applies his skills to innovate systems and processes. Additionally, he dedicates his time to Socigo, a non-profit organisation, supporting its  activities, workshops, and festivals to  promote the Deaf community’s language and culture. Beyond his work, he enjoys spending time with his family and doing things that challenge and interest him.

As a Deaf father with hearing children, can you share a moment with your children that filled you with pride, despite the communication barriers?       

Certainly. One moment that fills me with immense pride despite the communication barriers is when my children and I participated in the production and shooting of Takalani Sesame, the proudly South African children’s television edutainment program. Being a Deaf father in a world primarily designed for those who hear can present challenges, but this experience was a testament to inclusivity and the power of collaboration.

On the set of Takalani Sesame, where the show is broadcast in five South African languages, including South African Sign Language (SASL), I felt a deep sense of belonging and pride in our shared contribution to a program that celebrates diversity and promotes education for children of all abilities.

Through Takalani Sesame, we were able to bridge communication barriers and share our stories, culture, and language with a wide audience, reaffirming that every child, regardless of their abilities, deserves to see themselves represented and celebrated in the media. It’s a moment I’ll always treasure, knowing that our involvement made a positive impact on children’s lives and contributed to a more inclusive society.

What creative methods have you developed to make learning and exploration fun for your children?     

I’ve embraced creativity to give my kids an enjoyable learning and discovery experience. Here are some methods I’ve developed:

  • Visual learning: Charts and diagrams to clarify ideas and strengthen learning are examples of visual learning. Not only can visual aids improve my children’s comprehension, but they also allow me to actively engage in the learning process.
  • Hands-on activities: To make learning dynamic and interesting, I include experiments and hands-on activities. Building models and carrying out science experiments are two examples of activities that pique curiosity and provide a deeper comprehension of the subject.
  • Storytelling: I love telling stories using sign language, gestures, and facial expressions. Storytelling not only enhances language development but also sparks imagination and creativity in my children.
  • Educational games: I introduce educational games and puzzles that combine learning with fun. For example, board games reinforce math skills and teach about nature, and make learning enjoyable and memorable.
  • Outdoor exploration: I encourage outdoor exploration and nature walks to stimulate curiosity and discovery. Exploring the world around us provides endless opportunities for learning about science, geography, and the environment.

Could you tell us about a time when you and your child overcame a particularly challenging situation together?

Certainly. One particularly challenging situation that stands out is when my child faced difficulties with a speech project that required extensive communication and collaboration with classmates. As a Deaf father, I initially felt unsure about how I could effectively support my child through this process, given the communication barriers.

However, we decided to tackle the challenge together. We divided the speech into visual paragraphs. I encouraged my child to communicate openly with me about their thoughts and concerns, using a combination of sign language and gestures to ensure clear communication.

Despite the initial hurdles, we persevered, seeking assistance from teachers when needed. By working together and being determined, we were able to finish the speech more successfully. This difficult situation eventually brought us closer together and gave us both confidence and strength that we will use to face future challenges together. It was a life-changing event that deepened our relationship.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from your children about patience and understanding?

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned from my children about patience and understanding is the importance of empathy and unconditional love. Despite the communication barriers I face as a Deaf father with hearing children, my children have always shown unwavering patience and understanding in our interactions.

I have a better understanding of how important patience and understanding are for building strong, meaningful relationships now that I can see the world through my children’s eyes. Every day, my children make me want to be a better person and remind me that real communication isn’t just words, but also the bonds we make with each other.

How do you celebrate your children’s achievements in your unique way?

I use Deaf culture to honor my children’s accomplishments in a special way. We enjoy taking kids to holiday events and using sign language for our Signing Celebrations. It’s a chance to embrace our cultural identity and pay tribute to my children’s accomplishments.

Sesame — a home for families to play and learn