Pioneer School learners take to the airwaves
Statement by Bronagh Hammond: Director for Communication, Western Cape Education Department
Pioneer School for Visually Impaired learners has started its own radio station.
Michael Bredenkamp, Pioneer School Principal, said the purpose of this exciting new addition to the school was to educate and empower blind and visually impaired learners to become broadcasters and thus create employment.
The learners share stories and news, do interviews, and report on all activities in and around the school. They are also trained in proper microphone etiquette, operating the various aspects of a studio, producing, sound engineering, compiling and presenting specialised programmes, scriptwriting and compilation of radio ads, etc.
The radio station is broadcasting live from the school, every Wednesday night from 19:00 until 20:00. It is an internet-based station so listeners from all over the world can tune in.
Quinten Pendle, a music teacher at the school and the driving force behind the radio project, said employment opportunities for visually impaired people are fewer than for their sighted peers. “As a blind person, I have had to compete with other “normal” or “sighted” people to get a job, and to provide for my family.
“When I started teaching at Pioneer School at the beginning of last year, I wanted to contribute towards enriching the lives of our learners, equipping them with skills and knowledge that they could apply in a practical manner once they leave school.”
For the past six years, Pendle has been involved with Perron FM, a community radio station based in Malmesbury. “Since radio has always played a vital role in the lives of blind people, amongst others providing information and entertainment, I figured that this might be an extra field in which they could excel, hopefully opening up more job opportunities for them later in their lives.”
The learners started off with preparation and training at the beginning of 2021. Their very first broadcast took place on Thursday, 9 September 2021 at 19:00. Up until now, the school made use of some of Pendle’s spare equipment, which includes a computer, mixing desk and microphones, to stay on air, but in February this year, they received a generous donation from “Dankie Lottoland” with which they are now able to buy all the necessary studio equipment and software.
One of the rooms in the music building is being made soundproof and ready for use as a dedicated broadcasting studio.
Learners from Grade 9 to 12 can join the school’s Radio Academy. Pendle said he believed that a gentle introduction to a broadcasting environment was necessary, and that it required a child to have reached some level of maturity.
At present nine learners are part of the Radio Academy.
Apart from music, the learners cover all topics regarding the school. “Our broadcasters are keen interviewers, and not only do they bring the most amazing stories, but they also have great ideas, some of which we have already implemented into our schedule.
“We also endeavor to let our younger learners, as well as those with special needs, take part in our broadcasts, either by means of being interviewed, or as part of other activities that take place at our school. Some of the topics that were covered include the recent helicopter trips that we were fortunate to experience, scuba diving classes, goal ball and athletic championships. One of our Grade 4 learners also performed his very own piano composition on air.
“Our radio station serves as a method of entertainment for both students and staff, a platform for communicating information, and as a marketing tool for our school.”
At present, the school broadcast one hour per week, but they have the capacity and the eagerness among the learners to fill more time and will likely expand their broadcasting hours in the very near future.
Pendle added that they have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the listeners. “Most of them are involved with our school in some way or another, but we also have regular listeners from other walks of life, even from the USA. We do a lot of marketing on social media, we have created our own Facebook page (Pioneer School Radio), and we’re working towards getting a dedicated WhatsApp number through which we hope to encourage healthy interaction between presenters and listeners.
Visit http://s2.stationplaylist.com:7124/listen.mp3 to listen to the station.