This integrated combined school started off as the Vrederust Primary School which was established on the Mission in 1961 to serve the children of the local villages. In 2009 the Franciscan Sisters started a first secondary school class where both sighted and visually impaired children could learn together. In 2012 the school was registered at the Department of Education as the StFrancis Catholic Academy and in 2013 the first Grade 12 class wrote the national matric exam. Currently there are 510 learners attending Gr R to 12 of which 42 (in Grades 8 to 12) are visually impaired. In 2013 and 2014 the school has had a higher than 90% pass rate.
The model of integration at the St Francis Catholic Academy is unique in South Africa. While mainstream schooling offers the visually impaired learner integration into society, it frequently fails to provide the services and skills such a learner needs, for this reason most blind learners will attend specialized schools. However, St Francis Catholic Academy offers the best of both worlds – in the day-time visually impaired learners attend a mainstream school, but after school they live in a hostel exclusively for the blind where they are given specialist attention.
The school is supported to teach the blind in the following way:
- A Braille teacher who teaches Braille to those learners who did not learn it at primary school level.
- A specialized teacher who can be called on to help during lessons.
- The Centre for Material Production, which formats learning materials, tests and exam papers in Braille.
- Orientation and mobility instruction
In addition, all secondary teachers in the school have received training from a specialist from
Polandin methodology for teaching the blind and in Braille.