Eight students enrolled in unique educational opportunities
At Deaf Open World we have two major objectives that we are seeking to address. The first is to acknowledge the gaps in the education system in Swaziland through providing supplementary educational opportunities to students who's needs are best met outside of what is currently available. As we grow, we hope to better support the local infrastructure so all Deaf youth in Swaziland will have access to quality education that is on par with what is available to their Hearing counterparts. This is where The Symmetry Project comes in.
Secondly, we are offering our technical services to parents and families of Deaf children through raising awareness of the importance of education, and also offering financial and emotional support to families as they advocate for their children. In that way, we are also working to engage with the local government to open up further opportunities as well, such as educational grants, disability grants, expanding healthcare and career services for Deaf people, and so on.
We currently are supporting 8 students, 7 of whom are enrolled in De La Bat School in Worcester, outside of Capetown in South Africa, and 1 who is studying at the English Language Institute (ELI) under Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. These educational pathways were tailored to the specific need of each child. However, one of our core principles is fostering independence among Deaf youth. The students gain leadership skills and are expected to be responsible of looking after each other while they are away at school, and in doing so also gain experiencing in self-advocacy.
As we grow, we hope to offer expanded services to Deaf youth and their families in Swaziland, as well as Deaf youth in other countries across Sub-Saharan Africa as well.
With no universal hearing screening, on average, Deaf children are identified by age 3, however this is generally diagnosed by parents or family members.
Although Swaziland has one primary school for the Deaf which includes a preschool, most students are not enrolled until they are almost 7, with some students beginning their formal education as late as 11, or even 16.
In comparison, neighboring South Africa has nearly 40 schools for the Deaf and a much stronger infrastructure when it comes to offering services, such as Sign Language Interpreters.
We work with parents of Deaf children who are interested in expanding their child's opportunities and are dedicated to advocating for advancing Deaf Education and Rights in Swaziland. The parents function as a team of Champions ensuring that things run smoothly on the ground. We are one family at DOW and we work to make sure all of the students are taken care of and step up when needed. For more information on the history of Deaf Education in Swaziland, click here.