On Saturday February 1, 2020, a teacher and two deaf students from Pikinini Playtime departed for Fiji.

Michael Aru and Jim Firiam will be studying at the Fiji Gospel School for the Deaf (GSD) and Edikiel Haisoch will be teaching a class of deaf students. A third student, Jones Tarituku, travelled to Fiji early in January and is already studying at GSD.

Vanuatu currently has no schools that can teach deaf children in sign language and the Gospel School for the Deaf is the only school of its kind in the Pacific region. The Principal of Pikinini Playtime, Carol Batten, said, “This is just one more step in a long-term plan to provide school in sign language here in Vanuatu.

“We sent Michael and his teacher Miss Edikiel to the GSD for six months in 2019. They both did so well that the school asked the two of them to return this year and they also offered to accept more students”.

In 2021 Pikinini Playtime plans to have signing of lessons in those classes that include deaf students.

“Two of these boys are only 7 years old and they will be away from their families for the whole year,” Miss Carol said.

“That is an extraordinary commitment from both the children and their families.

“We plan to send another teacher in June for six months training and then we will have the staff we need to begin to teach in sign language here.

“This will be a first for Vanuatu and it will mean that deaf children will no longer need to leave their families to get an education.

“Already we have staff and students learning sign language so that they will be able to communicate with our boys when they return.”

This initiative has only been made possible through the generosity of sponsors both here and abroad.

“We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to those who have contributed to this achievement.

“Island Magic Resort, South Pacific Meats, Trade Tools and the Hokulani Dance group have made this possible through their wonderful generosity,” Miss Carol added.

It seems that the word is spreading and the parents of other children who cannot hear are already contacting the school seeking an education for their children.

“Now the challenge is to make sure we are ready for 2021 so that their hopes and dreams become reality,” she concluded.