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January 22, 2004

First African School to Get Technology for Deaf Learners

From: - Jan 22, 2004

BuaNews (Pretoria)

By Johannah Thakadu

The Eduplex Primary School in Pretoria has become the first school in Africa, and one of the first schools in the world, to be equipped with Automatic Frequency Synchronisation (AFS) technological devices, fixed into classrooms and assembly centres to assist learners with hearing problems.

Today the school was privileged to host the Chief Executive Officer of Phonak Switzerland Valentino Chapero who donated the electronic devices worth R1.2 million to the school.

Phonak FM systems have been specifically designed to pick up speech signals at the source, for example a teacher's mouth, to transmit them clearly and without distortion directly to the child's hearing instrument, creating a basis for optical speech and understanding regardless of the acoustic surroundings.

The devices make it possible for children with a hearing loss to develop listening skills through which they acquire spoken language, to have full access to the regular school curriculum.

The Eduplex facility is the first Centre of Excellence in South Africa based on a fully inclusive model.

It is also among the first few in the world.

Here, technology and specially trained staff, support deaf children and enable them to be educated alongside children with normal hearing on a ratio of not more than one deaf child for every three children with normal hearing.

The linguistic emphasis in this programme ensures that there are tremendous benefits for both normally hearing and deaf children.

Classrooms are specially designed to create excellent listening conditions.

Each deaf child will be fitted with two of the very latest high-performance receivers that can be synchronised automatically to that of the teacher's.

The devices will eliminate the three biggest problems in teacher /child communication that leads to severe hearing limitations such as noise, especially classroom background noise, distance between the teacher and the child and reverberation, in rooms without acoustic treatments.

In a message sent to the school today, Education Minister Kader Asmal said transforming the education system had been one of bigger challenges in South Africa since 1994 because of unequal allocation of resources under apartheid.

The minister said the process of renewal continued to show tangible signs of progress and this was a wonderful gift to the children and teachers at Eduplex. He added that the department was "greatly indebted to Phonak".

School principal Rosa Kleyn also thanked Phonak for the donation adding that the school started a Grade 1 class this year and was planning to build more classes until Grade 9.

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