“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine thesignificance of the life we had.”
– Nelson Mandela
Our current and biggest project to date is to build an All-Inclusive School
The South African Human Sciences Research Council recently published a report on the education throughput of young learners who are Deaf and hard of hearing. Accordingly, they account for 5% of the country’s school population but school attendance has been noticed to drop significantly especially in the early stages of their education journey. In many cases, the identification of impaired hearing in a child takes place at such a late stage that they have already become disillusioned and dropped out of school with large gaps in their learning process that are always difficult to repair. As a result, they are prevented from achieving their best potential and are often dependent on others for socio-economic support. This is one of the reasons why Al-Waagah Institute for the Deaf was established, to try and fill the gaps that are left in the development and support needed to help Deaf individuals overcome barriers to achieving their full potential. While there are approximately 43 schools across the country for Deaf and hard of hearing learners, few have the capacity to provide comprehensive support especially in impoverished neighbourhoods.
The Al-Waagah Islamic Institute for the Deaf is therefore a home and a family for those who have fallen through the gaps of policy implementation for Deaf people. Irrespective of religion, the Institute welcomes people from all backgrounds and nationalities to benefit from a variety of support services offered.
The need for education and support services have now reached a level where the current facilities at Al-Waagah are becoming inadequate. Coupled with this is the aim to build greater awareness around the rights of the Deaf and to mainstream sign language. We would therefore like to establish an all-inclusive school that offers education for both hearing and Deaf children. The model is based on the belief that placing children in the same space with others, who do not have disabilities, provides them with equal access to learning opportunities. It also increases the awareness and practice of sign language, helping to shift the narrative from the margins to mainstream. Even though the idea has been discussed on the level of the National Department of Education, thus far no initiative has taken up the challenge to put these ideas into practice.
Al-Waagah therefore plans to be the first organisation to develop the idea of an all-inclusive school, thereby pioneering a much-needed facility within the context of greater equality for our Deaf community.