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. In addition, due to communication and classroom problems, Deaf learners takes 18 months to complete one grade. 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.
Al-Waagah is currently run from a modest three-bedroom house in the neighbourhood of Athlone in the Western Cape, South Africa. A staff compliment consisting of an Administrator and a Deaf assistant take care of the day-to-day running of the office and sewing/ laundry/ironing project with six part-time teachers and assistants for religious instruction. These eight staff members receive a remuneration or stipend for their work while the EXCO and others (Eighteen registered volunteers) work on a purely voluntary basis.
Al-Waagah assists with legal services, applications for housing and social grants, support for individuals from other African countries, and poverty alleviation interventions. These services have however come to also include social support services for Deaf individuals, especially those who are isolated and need assistance in accessing services that do not provide for the needs of Deaf people such as the need for sign language interpreters.
SELF SUSTAINING AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT
We have a team of Deaf persons working daily on the sewing, laundry and ironing project, earning an income for themselves.
SIGN LANGUAGE & INTERPRETOR COURSES
In order to achieve our mission of integration of the Deaf in to the hearing society, we offer sign language and relay interpreter courses in order to introduce sign language to the masses and into places of worship and other institutions
Due to Deaf youth leaving school before reaching matric, they often find themselves jobless and disillusioned. This necessitates the need for youth mastery and development programs. This is achieved through counselling, workshops and youth camps.
Parents of Deaf children find themselves under tremendous pressure to deal with a Deaf child’s education, both religious and secular. Not to mention the social issues that goes with growing up and especially when they reach the dreaded teenage years.
No provision was made for the Islamic education of the Deaf and has led to great confusion as to their Muslim identity and their Religion.
In addition, due to their disability they find spoken English difficult to learn as it depends largely on sounds and also results in difficulty with written English and reading.
For these reasons the madrassa (religious education class) was established. For the first time our Deaf Muslim started learning about their religion and how to worship God.
Our monumental achievement and pinnacle from a religious perspective was the pilgrimage to Mecca in 2019 with 120 pilgrims of which 60 was Deaf.
Currently we have 68 students aged from 4 to 85 years young.