St. Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired
St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired has provided care and a special education for hearing impaired children from across Sierra Leone for more than 30 years. Today, the school welcomes 251 students, including more than 93 boarding pupils who are from remote areas and so do not have a family member or legal guardian in Makeni or its surrounding areas. The school's director and founder, a Catholic nun named Sister Mary Sweeney, is assisted by a committed staff of 57, including teachers, carers and administrators.
As in many parts of the developing world, children with disabilities in Sierra Leone are often socially marginalised; some are even rejected by their families. St Joseph’s School aims to combat this stigma and enable hearing-impaired children to take their rightful places in society. To that end, the school offers students a rigorous academic education and teaches vocational skills that will allow them to become active members of the working world. The school also involves its students’ parents in their children’s education and to teach the people of Sierra Leone about the life of the hearing impaired.
The St Joseph’s School for the hearing impaired is the only school in Sierra Leone or in West Africa offering primary education and language acquisition according to the so-called Maternal Reflective Method (MRM) supported with sign language. This allows children to learn to speak, write and read in any language, makes them more capable of functioning in society, taking up official jobs or preparing them for further studies in secondary education or in University.
The school’s primary objective is to provide an education for the students to then occupy their rightful places in their local society, both in the economic and cultural fields. To achieve this, the school carries out different activities to ensure their holistic development.
St. Joseph's also serves as an in-service training site for teachers of the hearing impaired in partnership with Sierra Leone’s newest institute of higher learning, the University of Makeni. Teachers pursuing degrees in special education participate in a series of lecture courses at the university supplemented by practical, hands-on instruction at St. Joseph’s. This program was initiated by St. Joseph’s administration and currently offers the only special education teacher training in the country.
Together St. Joseph’s and the University of Makeni have committed to building a center of excellence for special education with the aim of raising learning attainments of Sierra Leone’s children with special learning needs.