St Vincent School has been educating deaf children for 83 years this year. From humble beginnings in 1888 with 2 deaf children to 347 children in 2015. St Vincent School is a government school on private property. More than 2000 deaf people have come through St Vincent School and many have gone on to become very successful adults. St Vincent School is the only school for the deaf in the greater Johannesburg area and we accept children as young as 2 years old in order for them to begin their learning experience as young as possible. Although we are situated in what could be classified as an affluent area, this does not reflect our demographics. Our learners come from Thembisa, Vosloorus, Randfontein, Pretoria, Orange Farm, Springs, Boksburg, Alexandra, and even from other African countries: Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and DRC.
At St Vincent School, we have the huge challenge of being able to create opportunities and offer services that will minimise the language delays and optimize learning:
ongoing teacher training in South African Sign Language and teaching methods for Deaf children, a Feeding Scheme nicknamed “Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard” for well over 120 children (daily breakfast, tea and lunch for the learners and weekly food parcels and termly food hampers for their families), parent support groups to assist families in coping with and supporting their deaf child transport services that reach from Krugersdorp to Tembisa to Springs, Boksburg, Soweto, Vosloorus, Pretoria and Orange Farm in order to get our children to school and ensure they receive the education they deserve.
We also have the duty to provide a wide range of learning opportunities and support services to meet the diverse needs of the learners in our care as there are no other places in the greater Johannesburg that are accessible to deaf learners or to deaf learners with other barriers to learning such as autism, CP etc
It is important that we strive to achieve excellence in deaf education and always aim at providing everything possible in order for deaf children to reach their full potential and go on to become successful and productive members of society that is their human right.
All these services certainly do not come cheap. 80% of our parents are not able to afford school fees and live well below the poverty level. The Department of Education subsidy only covers the Academic curriculum. As most of our children live below the poverty line, they do not have the opportunity to experience daily or yearly events that we take for granted for example, flying in an aeroplane or celebrating Christmas. We therefore spend a great deal of time and effort on fundraising and building relationships with sponsors so that we can truly continue to be a `place of dreams’ for the deaf learners in our care.