By Tauhierah Salie
The Al-Waagah Institute for the Deaf is appealing to the public to assist with its latest campaign: an all-inclusive school for the disabled community. It comes on the heels of an internationally commended trip to Makkah earlier this year, where 60 underprivileged deaf South Africans experienced the holy land for the first time.
Organisers say a School For The Deaf in Jeddah added fire to their 20 year goal to provide quality education for the marginalized members of our communities.
The Institute last month revealed that it has purchased a plot a 5 800 sqm plot in Schaapkraal and planning has commenced to build a “fully integrated school with students from all walks of life”.
During a press conference on Thursday, Al-Waagah chairperson Cassiem De Wet explained that the school is expected to cater to the educational needs of all those with disabilities, including the deaf and physically disabled.
De Wet noted that the trip to Makkah had opened their eyes to the struggles the deaf face on a regular basis. One of the core values of the institute was also brought to the forefront when the lack of religious support became apparent. Little to no madrasaah’s in Cape Town, or the country, are equipped to teach the deaf.
The Deen Channel’s Faizel Sayed, who documented the pilgrims journey, speaks about the significance of the experience:
“The school will be all inclusive but with an Islamic ethos. As a Muslim, it is our responsibility to make sure the message of Islam reaches our deaf brothers and sisters. The (curriculum) is sustainable because there will also be hearing children learning sign language as a subject at the school,” said De Wet.
De Wet appealed to the community to assist.
Public relations officer Sheriena Lagardien echoed De Wet’s sentiment: “That is one of the problems we have. There is a communication barrier because very little people can sign. Some people cannot even sign to their family members who are deaf. This is what we want to change.”
Lagardien added that there are various ways to contribute.
The chairperson said the R4.5 million plot is expected to include a pre-primary and primary school but will also be host to several other programmes. Although the architectural plans have not been finalized, the institute highlighted that it plans to cater holistically to the disabled.
“We don’t know what the numbers will be like yet but we want to have small classrooms, of around 15 students, to make sure each person gets enough attention. Every classroom will have a teacher and a carer, who assists the students. We are going to start out with classes for the deaf and then expand, so we have to make sure we get the logistics right.”
De Wet added that although there is no shortage of passion, there is a lack of funding and expertise.
“We are just parents and interested parties who started this. Now we are going to need those (academics), particularly the retired teachers and principals (to) help us put this together. We have that expertise in the community. It’s not just the money (they can help with) but the assistance in kind as well.”
Lagardien highlighted that the institute is positive about making a lasting change.
“We are very excited because we have a different vision for our deaf people. We are definitely going to bring a different flavor into upskilling them because we want them to have a normal life and be part of society. If people get involved with this, it can be revolutionary.”
To contribute contact:
Website: www.alwaagah.org.za contact
Office: 021 638 3368