Vanuatu’s first-ever Sign Language Teacher, Edikiel Haisoch, continues to break barriers for the nation’s deaf children.

She is a full-time teacher at Pikinini Playtime, instructing both students and teachers in sign language.

According to Mrs. Haisock, in 2023, she was teaching 10 children at Pikinini Playtime. These children are aged 6 years old and upwards, distributed across various classes, including Kindergarten, Years 2, 3, 5, 7, and 9.

She mentioned that she applied for the Sign Language Coordinator position at the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET), attended an interview, but ultimately decided to decline the offer.

“It would be beneficial to start with the little kids first to assist them and also enhance my skills in this career. After that, I can explore opportunities in the field or other places,” she said.

Nowadays, there are few teachers who teach sign language in some schools, but at Pikinini Playtime, there are five teachers, each class having an inclusive teacher present inside the classrooms. These are Special Needs teachers who use sign language for instruction.

Haisock shared that every Monday and Thursday, she conducts sign language classes with the teachers, and this occurs throughout the year.

“So many of them that I have taught are very fluent in sign language. Now, the teachers are truly proficient in sign language, and they teach inside the classroom. The only subject they can’t teach, I step in to teach,” she said.

In teaching sign language, it helps a lot in the school for us to communicate with the children who are deaf. Additionally, hearing children also understand sign language, and they use it to communicate around the campus.

Principal of Pikinini Playtime, Anthony Batten, reconfirmed that they currently have 10 deaf children enrolled and actively studying at their school.

These students exhibit a unique learning approach by simultaneously learning to read English and communicate through sign language. They receive dedicated support within the classroom from a teacher who stays with them to facilitate their learning.

Notably, all students, including those who are not deaf, are taught sign language, developing inclusive communication among peers.

Mr. Batten expressed the desire to welcome more deaf students to the school, emphasising the limited alternatives available for their education. He stressed the importance of expanding sign language teaching to provide greater educational opportunities for deaf children.

Mrs. Haisock believes that if it is God’s will, she will start her own sign language school in the future, as she has been asking her superior for the opportunity to teach for just five years.