School for deaf scores 100% matric pass

Seven Steps Academy for the Deaf’s top matric pupil, Rudy Kianda, with deputy principal Marina Paioni, left, and principal Lee-Ann Kannemeyer.

The Seven Steps Academy for the Deaf has achieved a 100% matric pass rate for the third year in a row.

Previously known as the Dominican Grimley School for the Deaf, the school moved from Hout Bay to District Six in 2021.

According to Lee-Ann Kannemeyer, the principal for the past 17 years, it is the only oral deaf teaching school in the province, and all of its 100 pupils – evenly split between primary and high school grades – have assisted-hearing devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants.

“I am proud of these accomplishments. These pupils are the ones that started high school during the pandemic; they overcame their challenges and rose to the occasion admirably,” says Ms Kannemeyer of the school’s 12 matric pupils for 2023.

The pupils get more individual attention in smaller classes as they do not pick up language in the same way a fully hearing child does, she says.

For example, a fully hearing child has more of an opportunity to pick up vocabulary through incidental learning when parents speak about everyday objects such as tables or chairs.

Classrooms are carpeted and have acoustic panels to dampen distracting noises, and pupils sit close to the teacher to aid hearing and lip reading.

“We use a language programme that is designed for deaf children, where we teach English like a foreign language with a huge emphasis on the nouns and verbs,” says Seven Steps deputy principal Marina Paioni. Teaching also includes the use of a lot of pictures and physical demonstration.

Pupils come from many parts of the city including Masiphumelele, Kayamandi, Dunoon, Mitchell’s Plain, Blue Downs, Langa and Khayelitsha and there is a subsidised school bus service for families who struggle to pay for transport.

The top matric pupil, Rudy Kianda, 20, from Parklands, scored an aggregate of 78% with three distinctions.

Rudy was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and was originally French speaking. He lost his hearing at the age of 7 through an illness. He says he used a hearing aid from the age of 8 and then when he turned 16 he received a cochlear implant.

He has been part of the Seven Steps since Grade 3. “I am speechless and proud of my accomplishments,” he says.

He used flashcards, made audio recordings of his studies and attended extra classes to prepare for his exams.

“I am grateful for the school. When I came here, I could not speak English. They helped me with the language, and the teachers would always repeat a word so that we can understand. They helped us with everything we needed to achieve good results.”

Rudy will be studying a BA in Humanities at Stellenbosch University.

If anyone would like to find out more about the Seven Steps Academy for the Deaf, call 021 790 1052 .

Classrooms are carpeted and have acoustic panels to dampen distracting noises.