Schools mentioned below include:
The Foundation School
Sinetemba School for deaf and blind (Katlehong)
Sibonile School for the blind (Kliprivier)
Hope School for physically
Prinzhof for the blind (Pretoria)
Con Amore School
Forest Town Primary
Casa do Sol (mentally disabled,
Doug Whitehead (mentally
EP Baumann Primary School
Early Childhood Development
At the end of May 2001, the SA Government published its White Paper
on Early Childhood Development. It said that by 2010, each of SA's 22,000
primary schools and 4,500 community-based preschool centres, should offer a
nationally accredited reception year, grade R. Children will have to complete
Grade R in the year that they turn six, before entering grade one in the year
that they turn seven. Forty per cent of South Africa's children grow up in
abject poverty and neglect. "Timely and appropriate intervention can reverse
the effects of early deprivation and maximise the development of potential."
Elsewhere on this website you can read about children in the Joe Slovo squatter
camp in Coronation, Johannesburg, like Ashley Motshwari, Richard Kaweng,
Vhongani and Khumbulani Nwandzule, all not attending school despite being of
school-going age (some as old as 15 but out of school for years) and all
malnourished and showing stunted growth.
In July 2001, the SA Government published its Education White Paper 8
on Special Needs Education. Building an inclusive education and training
The Paper states that district support services can become resources for
all our schools e.g. a special school with physiotherapists must share their
services with ordinary schools nearby.
The Paper comments on fear of the many challenges that may come
communication, costs, stereotyping, safety of learners
that can be righted only by further professional and physical resources
development, information dissemination and advocacy.
While theoretically acknowledging that extra costs are involved, the
Department of Education appears to use every excuse possible not to spend more
money. The main argument always seems to be that of not setting a
precedent instead of the reverse view that a particularly unusual child
can be a catalyst for growth, change and development. Indeed that learning how
to cater for one child, teaches the system how to cope with many more.
Sometimes the cost would be R2000 a month on a salaried classroom assistant
(with some job benefits like holiday pay, sick pay and medical aid); sometimes
the cost would be capital expenditure like guide rails for a low vision
The Paper states: We will incrementally develop full service
school models of inclusion. But the Department did not factor in the
resistance of individual teachers, trade unions, governing bodies and sometimes
the other pupils parents. It is worth remembering the resistance faced by
Aids victim Nkosi Johnson, simply because his mother wished him to attend a
normal school (Melpark Primary School in Melville, Johannesburg). He did
eventually attend the school but people had to educate the parents first, so
that they could overcome their illogical fears that were unfounded in fact.
Also previous absolute rules were changed by the determination of
individual parents as with the mother who took the Education Department to
court, to ensure that her bright six year old daughter could start school, even
though she would not turn seven until the following year. What a lot of money,
time and heartache would have been saved if the fear of the
precedent had been set aside and simple sanity had prevailed at the
The Inclusion White Paper also refers to Early Childhood Development.
But is does not mention children in hospital. Paediatric long-term patients
should be a concerted focus of early intervention and should get maximum
possible education while in hospital, so that lack of education does not add to
their physical or emotional health problems. Dorah (see elsewhere on website)
got no regular therapy let alone education while in hospital. While normal
children were at least picking up vocabulary from family around them, Dorah was
left twiddling her hand stumps because she had nothing else to do for
years. It is morally imperative upon the Department to rectify this first
Regarding disabled children Education Minister Kader Asmal wrote:
The place for these children is not one of isolation in dark backrooms
and sheds. It is with their peers, in schools, on the playgrounds, on the
streets and in places of worship where they can become part of the local
community and cultural life, and part of the reconstruction and development of
our country. For it is only when these ones among us are a natural and
ordinary part of us, that we can truly lay claim to the status of cherishing
our children equally.
Let us work together to nurture our people with disabilities so
that they also experience the full excitement and joy of learning.
>The White Paper states that the curriculum and education system as a
whole have generally failed to respond to the diverse needs of the learner
Costs (p15 of the White Paper)
It is infinitely cheaper for the SA Government if a disabled child is
raised in a family home, even if the family are lucky enough to receive a
foster grant, than for such a child to be placed in a permanent childrens
home and/or boarding school or so-called special school.
The White Paper refers to the R11000 a year spent by Gauteng Province
per pupil that compares poorly with the R28600 spent by the Western Cape. The
difference between these sums is not far off the cost of employing a classroom
assistant. If one adds in the weighting of four given for a
physically disabled child and of six given to a blind child, and the sums
arguably due for the education of a multiple disability child move closer
towards the cost of teachers and therapists salaries that are
P18 of the White Paper refers to: Development of learners
strengths and competencies rather than focusing on their shortcomings only.
This is the theory but not the reality. There is no school in Greater
Johannesburg that would willingly take in a blind pupil in August 2002.
People in charge
Education Minister: Kader Asmal 012 312 0126 / 5501; 021 465 7350.
Deputy Education Minister: Mosibudi Mangena
Edcent Williams 012 312 5281 Chief Director Curriculum Assessment.
There are a lot of private assessment clinics being set up, often using
the premises of established schools at weekends and appearing to be an official
extension of their activities, but actually run as private businesses. The
clinics claim they can assess the abilities of a complex child in anything from
ten minutes to two hours. They will charge families as much as R1200 for such
assessments, sometimes using tests that would be described as archaic in the
northern hemisphere. Always ask what choices you have in terms of assessment
and what fee, if any, is expected. If you are a low income or no income family,
make this clear before any assessment takes place.
Gauteng Province Education Department
Provincial education contacts (August 2002)
Anthony Myers 011
Jeanette Kilian 011 408 9259 (special needs placements)
Mathiva 011 408 9348, Educon Building, 125 Simmonds Street, Braamfontein,
Exemptions (i.e. permission for a child not to be in
conventional schooling in the year that they turn seven): Maureen Mcineka 011
408 9347; Dalene Louw 011 408 9312/9205.
Unhelpful: Lindy Mngqibisa
(refuses to explain what she does - even though exemption colleagues put people
through to her).
The Foundation School
Based at 32-64,1st Avenue, Melville, Johannesburg. Tel: 011 482 3520;
fax 011 482 4303.
The principal is Amanda Fallick.
This school has a very wide catchment area, extending as far as
Springs on the Far East Rand. Its fees are R3500 a year (R350 usually paid over
a ten month calendar) [August 2002]. Bus transport is extra and rates charged
depend on distance. The school takes in children with problems like Downs
Syndrome but is largely made up of pupils that just need a bridging programme
to get into ordinary state schools. Many pupils are from a rural background and
have started school very late or had poor quality schooling. The school runs
from Grade 1 to Grade 7. It is based in the C2 Education District but is
largely funded by donations to the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust, with a
mere R800 payment per pupil per year from Gauteng Education Department.
The buildings are full to bursting, and there are even two prefabricated
classrooms with possibly room to build one more. There is a nearly full size
soccer pitch and a smaller games field at the other end. The school would like
to acquire the nearby old Melville library building to use for additional
classes, but that seems to now be destined for commercial development.
The school includes a Progress Centre, described as Intervention of
Minimal Brain Dysfunction pupils. "The focus is on acquisition of life and
economy supportive skills and competencies that will enable the pupils to play
a functional role in society. There is a range of individual enrichment
There is also a High School based at St Joseph's Children's Home, corner
Good and Herman Streets, Sophiatown (previously known as Triomf).
Sinetemba School for deaf and blind, Katlehong.
Tel: 011 905 1104. No email. Acting principal: Gilbert Moriti (August
No. 1, Mofokeng Section, Katlehong.
(N3 highway, Vosloorus/Leondale turnoff, r. towards Vosloorus, over
bridge, through Spruitview, r. at four-way stop at garage, first large brown
The combined nursery, primary and secondary school has 360 pupils of
whom 220 are in hostels and the rest come daily. More than one teacher
complains of the school not functioning as well as it could, due to internal
infighting. She said that the curriculum needed to be overhauled to become more
The school teaches Braille and signing. Teachers say it is harder for
deaf pupils to find employment than for blind pupils (who typically work as
receptionists), because the general public cant sign and arent
willing to learn. The profoundly deaf cannot lip-read as a little hearing is
needed even to understand lip reading. She complained that employers consider
deaf people aggressive because of this communication gap. They suggested the
Department of Education should lead the way by employing more disabled
There is a waiting list for pupils wanting to enter the school.
The Dept of Education has frozen the posts at the school so they have
been unable to employ someone to teach the bridging class that allows for some
remedial problems to be sorted out.
The school is no longer accepting learners for the hostel because it is
full. The buses only serve Katlehong, Vosurus and other areas close by.
There are 100 blind pupils and many more deaf children could be admitted
if there was space. Children can start at age 3 in the pre-school.
Physically disabled children are referred to Zimelane School for
physically disabled children.
The school does not teach Moon (the language similar to, but simpler
than, Braille, that could maybe be learned by children who have no
Sibonile School for the visually impaired
Principal: Mrs Bafedile Moretane (August 2002)
011 903 8909 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fees: R750 a year.
The school is in what was once known as Sybrandt van Niekerk Laerskool,
in Kliprivier, some 40 km from Johannesburg. Sibonile is one of several schools
intended for pupils with visual impairment in Gauteng province. It is a primary
school (up to Grade 7) with boarding facilities. The late Mr E Ncala, initally
seeking a solution to the education of his own child, persuaded the National
Organisation for the Blind in South Africa (NOBSA) to be sponsors and the
school (number XA86) was registered on the 16 February 1994.
Sibonile is a state-subsidised school and has pupils who are partially
sighted; pupils who are totally blind; pupils with visual and mental problems;
and pupils who are deaf-blind. It also has some pupils who can see normally.
There is no training centre for the visually impaired in and around Gauteng
province except for sheltered workshops.
Pupils aged 20 years old and above want to attend at Sibonile but are
denied because of age limits. The school has very slow learners with no hope of
leaving the school in the near future e.g. seventeen year olds in a special
stimulation class. There is a dire need for a vocational training centre
through which many of the visually impaired would be able to gain a measure of
independence and employment.
Parents of a former pupil commented in 2001 that the (now former)
principal of the school was most inspired (he moved on to the special needs
School of Excellence in Germiston) but that this did not necessarily follow
through to his teaching staff and least of all through to the housemothers. One
parent feared hygiene problems in the dormitories and alleged lack of
supervision over sighted boys playing with blind boys.
Some Sibonile staff have had specialist training overseas for brief
periods. The variety of languages used in the school - including signing for
the deaf - can be confusing to some blind pupils. Neither Braille nor Moon is
The school has a waiting list of 10 children in August 2002 and has 124
pupils of which about a quarter are totally blind. They are accommodated in 9
classrooms where 7 teachers and 1 class aid are responsible for their tuition.
There is a farm school on the same site but there is no shared teaching.
The Memorial Institute (TMI) Centre for Visually Impaired
Children, Parktown, Johannesburg
Postal address: Private Bag X39, Johannesburg 2000. Tel: 011 481 5163 /
5189; Fax: 011 642 6027
Officially still part of Johannesburg Hospital School - an ELSEN school
- the TMI visually impaired crèche is on the first floor of TMI, 13
Joubert Street Extension, Parktown (just on the edge of Hillbrow, just off
The TMI facility is aimed at pre-school children but in 2001 it claimed
to be still trying to be reclassified as a section of an Early Learning Special
Educational Needs (ELSEN) school. That would in theory allow it to take in a
wider age range than the SA Government's currently favoured scheme to only
assist Grade R classes - the reception year before Grade 0 of primary school.
However, as an ELSEN school it would have to be attached to a larger existing
ELSEN school, possibly functioning as a satellite. The current principal would
be unable to retain a principal's post if the school was reclassified, as one
cannot be a principal of a satellite facility with a mere dozen pupils. If the
school is not reclassified, it will close and both teachers would have to be
redeployed or retrenched. One teacher was away from June to October 2001 and is
trying to emigrate.
Gauteng's Department of Education had tried to close the TMI school in
December 2000 (in common with 90 other pre-schools) but the teachers' trade
union took the province to court and it has a stay of execution for more than a
The school, based on the edge of Parktown and Hillbrow in Johannesburg,
has a teacher:pupil ratio on average of 1:6. It says that looking after one
blind child is as hard as looking after six ordinary children. It equated
looking after Dorah Mokoena as being the equivalent of ten ordinary children,
because she had also lost her hands through injury.
TMI has a paediatrician who assesses children on admission but who is
not visibly involved in day to day activities, and very rare access in school
hours to speech therapy and physiotherapy students. The school had a private
grant to employ an occupational therapist. The school has only two teachers,
neither of them with significant specialist training in the field of disability
or low vision. This lack of expertise is not immediately apparent because of
the good facilities. These date back largely to when the Visually Impaired Unit
was founded, partly as an offshoot of the Johannesburg Hospital School, by
people with direct training in the needs of visually impaired children.
TMI's contract staff member with the most experience, Elzet Utley, left
in May 2001 to take on a more challenging role on inclusion of disabled
children into mainstream education for the Catholic schools of South Africa. Ms
Utley herself had suffered from low vision and as an occupational therapist,
had good ideas for the pupils that cannot now be readily followed through. A
highly experienced classroom assistant Elaine, who had undergone some
specialist training, also left in April 2001.
TMI facilities including a small heated physio pool (despite being
heated it is only used for a small part of the year); a sand and water
stimulation room; an occupational therapy gym and a trailing "feely" walled
room, designed by students from the University of the Witwatersrand to
encourage blind children to explore. There is a pleasant outside playground for
warm weather use, with mostly baby-size equipment.
Teaching staff are paid by Gauteng Education Department to be on site
from a minimum of either 7am to 2pm every weekday or from 8am to 3pm every
weekday. Despite no teaching of children taking place beyond 12.30pm each day,
there seems to be no time to repair facilities in urgent need of repair. Parts
of the "feely wall" steadily fell off 2000 and 2001 and were not glued back on
or replaced. Prior to repainting of corridors with very Eurocentric images in
June 2001, a Braille frieze of numbers had been left incomplete for two years.
No one at TMI is qualified to teach children Braille or Moon but certainly one
pupil in 2000 was ready to learn and was frustrated with nothing to stretch him
The two teachers did attend (part of) a workshop on the needs of
multiple disability children in October 2000 but the ideas from the course did
not seem to be followed through in practice. E.g. the lecturer pointed out how
little meaning toy plastic animals have for a visually impaired child - to the
child they are just cold hard lumps of plastic that don't even remotely
represent the scale of the creature under discussion, let alone any of its
other attributes. It is far more effective to bring in a live animal or to get
into close contact on a farm or in a children's zoo, or to at least touch the
skin of a cow, to smell a cat or to hear the roar of a lion. Yet the next week,
inert cold hard lumps of plastic miniature animals were again on display in the
Dorah Mokoena started attending TMI part time, in 1999. She became a
five-day-a-week pupil at the school from mid April 2000 and remained there
until October 2001, with breaks away for operations. Despite the school's
shortcomings, Dorah generally enjoyed going to school - particularly the
company of her classmates. She regressed a little when she was off sick for two
weeks and returned to many changes - including the loss of her friend the
classroom assistant. She also misses the company of a slightly autistic fellow
pupil who was moved to the other class. Dorah liked games like rolling a ball
across the table to other pupils, rolling play dough, making paintings with her
"hands" with edible paints and she became a lively dancer if her arms are held.
Dorah could sing the melody of Frere Jacques; Twinkle Twinkle Little
Star; Baa Baa Black Sheep; Away in a Manger; This old man, he played two; Three
Blind Mice; Happy Birthday; If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands
(with clapping); and parts of many other songs. Her recognisable speech
remained very limited at TMI except for those who knew her very well. She uses
a phrase "yukk-a yukk-a" for "yes sir, yes sir" in Baa Baa Black Sheep. She
sang "yappy yappy" for "If you're happy and you know it ..."
In May 2001 she produced a clear but very quiet sentence "I ont eat" as
in "I want to eat". Dorah's speech is from the back of her throat. She rarely
repeats anything but expects people to hear it first time. This speech problem
is also noticed in cleft palate children. Dr Leanne Sykes from the University
of the Witwatersrand says: "Motor patterns of speech develop during the first
12 months of life. If the patient has not had palatal repair during this time,
compensatory speech patterns may develop such as abnormal pharyngeal and
glottal constrictions that produce speech that is often unintelligible. Unlike
the hypernasality of vowel sounds or nasal emission on consonant sounds which
can be corrected surgically, the compensatory articulations that develop prior
to surgery are not alleviated by the surgical repair." Sykes goes on to explain
how eating prosthesis can also aid speech if used at the right time. Much of
this would also have applied to Dorah if anyone in Far East Rand Hospital had
been made aware of the consequences of leaving her burned mouth largely
untreated for three years. Teachers (including those at special schools and
nurseries) similarly need to understand that a child not speaking does not mean
that the child is stupid.
Dorah's sight deteriorated after the failed corneal graft (and
infection) in September 1999 but she still strobes her arm in front of her eyes
in response to light. She settled very happily into her home in Auckland Park
and while still at TMI she became fairly mobile on her knees and standing, both
inside the house and in the garden, particularly in warm weather. One of her
favourite activities became swinging alarmingly high and to climb the ladder on
the jungle gym. After sending various volunteers to TMI it became clear that
Dorah was never taken over the jungle gym there nor used the slide, nor the
see-saw. Whatever she was nervous off, was simply put off-limits and when a
large classroom assistant was employed, vital exercise for children of walking
down the stairs stopped because the assistant herself preferred the lift.
Fees at TMI increased from R200 to R500 a month in mid 2000. The
teachers are, however, paid by Gauteng Department of Education and the
facilities are paid for by the Department of Health. In addition the school
fundraises and has donations from a variety of outside sources, including the
Nathan Trust. The school had a reserve fund of at least R45 000 (May 2001).
Most parents don't pay R500.
The other pupils at the school in June 2001 were: Refiloe Mokgoale, a
blind Sotho girl. Mbulelo Makapela, a boy with little vision. Karabo Mashaba. A
girl with little vision. Donald Albertus. A lively boy. Michael Dlamini. A
blind boy who is frequently ill. Kgadi Masetlwa. Raeez Kuhn. A lively little
boy. Bhaveen Patel. A boy. Zukiswa Kaizer. Shannon Stone. A very lively little
A trained nanny Zanele Cele visited TMI on Thursday September
She wrote: I visited TMIs visually impaired crèche
for some three hours in the morning. A woman called Jane was the principal and
a large woman called Melanie was the assistant.
I went to visit the school to see how do they work with Dorah so
that I can use their method when I am with Dorah. To my surprise nothing was
being done to Dorah, she was standing on own for two hour. No one was paying
any attention at all as if Dorah was not there. The lady in a white jersey and
navy blue skirt (Refiloes mother but she is not allowed to play with her
child when she is at school) who was present on that day told me that there is
nothing they can do because Dorah cannot even see. She also told me Dorah is
only allowed to play on the swing, not on the jungle gym nor slide because she
might fall and hurt herself. And if something can happen to Dorah they will
held responsible. To my understanding, they want to prevent the damage rather
than curing it, in other words they think that it better not to play with Dorah
than to let her fall, forgetting that if person let alone the disabled child
stand for more than an hour her legs become stiff.
There was also a distance between teachers and children all the
time outdoors; the lady told me that children are not allowed to move around
grown ups. To my understanding children feel secure if a person who is looking
after them shows love, they tend to trust that person more them anyone.
Children are not even allowed to touch any adults at TMI.
The children were playing with marbles; I think a child can swallow the
marble easy. The sand play was closed, which I think could have been of use to
Dorah who was standing for ages and doing nothing.
The outdoor play was over and then we went to the class, the
other lady was holding Dorahs hand up to the stairs. When arrived in the
classroom, Dorahs teacher took Dorahs lunch box out off
the bag and fed her. When finished eating the teacher cleaned
Dorahs face and hands and put some cream on. Lucy, a friend to Bronwen,
came to pick us at one in the afternoon. On our way Dorah wanted to go to the
toilet and then the teacher took her to the toilet. I did not hear any teacher
talking to Dorah whilst I was there. Anyway the teachers were nice but they
were not playing with the children at all. Zanele Cele
The Hope School for the Physically Disabled, Parktown,
Tel: 011 646 6130. Fax: 011 486 3595
Fees per year (2002): R5300 hostel accommodation; R5000 tuition.
The Hope School has got good facilities for mainly physically disabled
children, including one internationally-experienced speech therapist as well as
physiotherapy and occupational therapy staff. As there are no classroom
assistants, the therapists have to fetch the pupils from the classes
themselves, eating into the time available for therapy, though they seem to get
a little assistance from University of the Witwatersrand students. It has got a
well-equipped computer room for some 20 pupils, an outdoor swimming pool, an
indoor heated physio pool and lots of easy ramps and walkways for wheelchair
use. There are 11 nursing sisters who will be cut to only one by the end of
Some are day pupils but all the children now have to go home at weekends
even though this means a three day trip there and back for one pupil from
Tzaneen, every week. Other pupils come from Warmbaths and Witbank, Alex and
Soweto. Because of the high cost of traveling every week, one boy in Witbank
has ceased schooling at the age of 16 (2002). His parents are unemployed and
could not afford for him to finish his schooling.
Eighty pupils sleep in hostels 45 boys in what was once intended
as the Training Centre and 35 girls in a separate hostel. There is one matron
with13 housemothers and eight cleaners. Professional staff are
In August 2002, a shortage of funding for teachers had led the school to
teach grades one, two and three pupils all together in one English class and
one Afrikaans class. Grades four and five are also combined. The school
operates on a seven working day cycle (i.e. 1mon 2tues 3weds 4thur 5fri 6mon
7tues) the idea being that children who e.g. always go to hospital on a
Tuesday dont always miss the same lesson at school. Lessons are 45
The teachers complained not only at the difficulty of teaching such a
wide range of ages and abilities, but also at how time taken for 6-7 children
out of a class of 17, to attend therapy, be catheterised (half hour process at
9am and at 12 noon), or even attend hospital for calipers, prosthesis or
operations, disrupted the classes. The children who are not being given
therapy, need to remain occupied. The children temporarily out of the class
have to catch up on their return. There are also disruptions to accommodate
Prof. Erken the orthopaedic surgeon, when needed as well as Prof. George and
If children soil themselves in class, housemothers come to the class to
help clean them and the whole room if need be.
They described a young gifted girl who was being held back by the
progress of her classmates. If youre not going to stimulate her,
youre going to eventually lose her. The same of course applies to a
complicated child who might just be left out of the loop, simply because she is
hard to teach rather than being inherently stupid.
The school is in a wonderful setting with inspiring views right across
Johannesburg. The site belongs to Oxford University in the UK and the land
cannot be used for any purpose other than a school for the disabled without
their agreement. Some staff have commented on difficulties in ensuring children
like Irene (see below) follow instructions from hospital or their guardians, as
the pupils were so privileged in the elegant surroundings and low pupil-staff
ratio (sometimes only one teacher to six pupils) that they took it all for
granted, and some behaved quite ungraciously towards their carers. The school
takes some slow learners but will not take blind children. The principal is
Gerd Viljoen. It also includes a nursery school run by a volunteer in May 2001
and later run by a young speech therapist because there was no one else
to do so. One child assisted by Children of Fire attends the school. Her name
is Irene Peta.
Another child "Sissi" who attended TMI was refused a place at Hope
School in 2001 because of her limited sight and yet was also turned away from
Prinzhof in Pretoria, despite her elder sister already attending the school.
She was eventually accepted at Forest Town.
Prinzhof School for the Blind, Pretoria
012 328 4170
This (boarding) school teaches Braille but the staff were unaware of the
existence of an easier option, Moon. The communication language used is mostly
On a visit to the school, one child could clearly see well, so the
criteria for admission are uncertain.
Con Amore is in Sable Road, Kempton Park, near Johannesburg
International Airport. Tel: 011 976 1037 (Principal Mrs Kumi Gieselbach).
It is a school aimed at mentally disabled children. Where possible
the pupils are taught mathematics, reading and writing. Otherwise the focus is
on handiwork and self-care. There is a speech therapist and an occupational
therapist, but the children are taken in groups rather than receiving
individual therapy. Parents of a Downs Syndrome teenager at the school said
that they were happy with the school and that the fees are reasonable. In May
2001 they were paying R225 a month including bus transport to the school and a
good meal in the middle of the day. Bus costs depend on distance from the
school. It would not collect pupils from the other side of Johannesburg (e.g.
not from Auckland Park). The school day runs from 8am to 1.30pm. The school
does not really cater for children with physical handicaps though there is one
girl there without arms. One parents described her son: "My son can only read a
few words and has a hearing problem. He benefits from being part of a normal
family but it is hard now that his two teenage sisters go out and he has to
always stay behind. They are a bit embarrassed about him, but it is just at
this age. Meeting other parents helped me realise that I wasn't the only one in
the world with a child like this. We've also been very lucky outside the school
as Dirkie Visser, a psychologist from Muriel Brand school, has been kind enough
to give my son individual Sunday School classes for the past eight years. I
think she will continue until he takes Communion. That attention is an
important part of his life."
Forest Town Primary School
Tel: 011 646 0131 Fax: 011 646 0134 Email:
Private Bag X2, Parkview 2122, New Forest Road, Forest Town,
Deputy Principal: Louise Lovell.
Remedial therapist: Carol
School image: A phoenix rising from the flames and the word
Forest Town School was founded in 1947 by a group of parents of children
with cerebral palsy. The school is still primarily for CP children as well as
children with learning disorders or who are neurologically impaired. The
pre-primary accepts children from three years old.
A class of grade ones seen in 2002 had auditory and perception problems,
so they played games with flashcards, lots of learning games, making stepping
stones (literally) with words, and carried out addition, subtraction,
letterland all slower than a normal school but the same learning areas.
The children had more letter reversals (i.e. writing mirror images
of letters) than other early writers might have. A parent described the school
as having a strict interview to look at children's intelligence before
admitting them. Many pupils have learning problems or attention deficit
disorder. Some children cannot sit unaided; some cannot walk at all. One mother
described her son wanting to speak but people being so impatient that they did
not wait for his answer and so did not recognise that he could speak for a long
time. Generally the school was praised by parents though some had had
difficulties with particular teachers and the ones whose children had been
rejected by the school did not like it at all. There are typically 13 to 16
pupils to one teacher, and one classroom assistant for four classes.
Below: Little girl with glasses in front of jungle gym. This
little girl used to attend the crèche at TMI and, despite her low
vision, was accepted at the school... allegedly because of floppy limbs. She
was turned away from the Hope School and also from the Prinzhof School in
Pretoria. She can climb the jungle gym and her vision was good enough to
recognise her former classmate Dorah when we visited the school. Dorah was
turned down by Forest Town.
Fees for an 8am to 12.30pm day are R520 a month (August 2002) and include no
food. Aftercare at extra cost is being considered.
The speech, physiotherapy, and occupational therapists are "superb"
according to parents and a few children get two occupational therapy, two
speech therapy and two physiotherapy sessions a week (usually in groups), but
in August 2002 the wait to be taken on by the speech therapist was
several months. There is also a psychologist and a paediatrician
available. The school has some visually impaired children. Some children are
accompanied by their own facilitators - but their parents have to meet that
staffing cost. In common with many schools for able-bodied or disabled
children, the quality of parental involvement (or lack of it) helps determine
what the child can achieve.
Assessments carried out at the school are usually charged for. While not
aimed at blind children, the hand railing around most of the school and the
flat layout, would be ideal for them.
The school has good size jungle gyms for energetic play, computers for
pupils and communication aids for children who cannot speak. There is also a
door-to-door bus service
at a cost.
Casa do Sol
85 First Avenue (corner First Street), Linden, Johannesburg. Tel: 011
782 0231 Fax: 011 782 7736.
The school has a government subsidy and is under the jurisdiction
of the Education Department but is managed by a governing body and an
association that fund-raises to meet the shortfall in running costs. It usually
has a waiting list "for low functioning children"
including those with
attention deficit disorder, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, Fragile X
Syndrome, and brain damage.
It has 170 pupils (August 2002), a part-time occupational therapist, no
speech therapist and a physiotherapist occasionally. It has no blind pupils and
one assistant to every 15 pupils. The school includes cerebral palsy children,
autism and special ed. There was a waiting list of 16 children in
Parents have to pay R390 a month and R140 for aftercare.
The classroom assistant ratio is not maintained continuously because of
leave, sickness, etc.
Visiting one classroom, the ten children were staring in different
directions, unable to speak clearly, some were crying. The teacher was using
gestures to describe a banana (i.e. showing a peeling motion with her hands)
and using a chart of vegetable pictures. This would not teach a blind child
anything, so there are no blind children in the school (August 2002).
In another class the children had pre-school level Bible pictures to
colour in but most were scribbled over. (There was no mention of
how children from families with other religious backgrounds would be catered
for, presuming that the children actually even understood what the Bible was.)
There were little plastic animals to play with. There were also pictures for
the child to draw along curvy lines, etc.
Another class had children making large simple jigsaw puzzles (with
about 10-15 pieces) and some succeeded. There was a small dog in the class and
the pupils were mostly white.
Outside there was a very small sandpit and baby swings.
Some children apparently use the Makaton system of signing.
A cubic piece of wooden furniture containing the cut-outs of a square,
triangle and circle was used with a plank of wood at a gentle incline to the
top of it. The children walked: one step, two step, three step, four until the
top and then were told to get into the box and find the circle or
triangle or square and then to climb out through that shape. With one rather
fat boy, his only option was the square as he would not have got through the
There were also large word cards put on the floor for the children to
along the lines of we-are-here. Some tried to repeat
what another child had said, rather than reading. One child grunted
continuously like a pig.
A small stimulation room contained three small exercise mats, one large
physiotherapy ball (see the springing exercise described under Dorah Exercises
on the website) and a tube-like stuffed cushion to swing on. Baby jungle gyms
were visible outside and a disused (full of leaves) sandpit.
Children are said to learn: pottery, carpet making, weaving, sewing,
knitting, woodwork, gardening, computers and cooking. The brochure describes
activities such as horse riding but this is clearly off-site.
On a second visit to the school, the class run by a teacher called
Debbie, was singing: :This old man, he played one, he played nick nack on my
complete with gestures to indicate the old man (hand stroking
imaginary beard), a finger held up to show the number one, and other signs e.g.
hands/fingers pointed together in an inverted V over the head to show
home. A blind multiple disability child could learn some of these
signs within the limitations of missing body parts, but would not see the other
children or teacher doing them. She could obviously not hold up 1 or 2 or 3
fingers if she had no fingers to start with. The number cards on the floor that
the children then had to choose (only two pupils could do so accurately or were
even interested in doing so), could not be seen by a blind child. Most of the
activity and the pleasure in doing it and learning from it, would be lost on a
blind child. Two children were not involved at all, but were sitting behind a
chair, putting plastic discs into a container tidying up.
Debbie the teacher looked extremely tired. It seemed that the children
were all of very different abilities and some were consistently disruptive,
making it hard for the brighter ones to progress. The class is small, cramped,
and it would not be possible to keep all the furniture in the same place
and yet this is the sort of infrastructure that a blind child needs with which
to orientate herself. An Education Department committee were urging the placing
of a blind child in the school in August 2002 because there was no other
option in her education district or adjacent to it. But the teacher was
dubious as to whether she would cope with any more complexity in the class and
both she and the Principal said it would be impossible to guarantee the safety
of the childs prosthetic stick-on nose as children had previously flushed
the hearing aid of another pupil down the toilet. The nose, valued at some
R3000, can fall off at any time of day.
Also the hyperactive children were seen as a real risk to the physical
safety of a blind child (especially one already wearing a safety helmet) as she
could not see to defend herself if they became aggressive or simply too
The whole classroom was full of visually-stimulating material not
auditory or tactile stimulatory material. It was too cramped; the teacher too
tired. When would there be time train a teacher to know how to teach a blind
child? The children would hold a bright blind child back.
Even if the Education Department recommended a placement in the school,
the Governing Body would have a say and despite all the pledges not to disrupt
childrens lives, even Casa do Sol has a three month probationary period
after which they can say that the child cannot be taught in their existing
classes and must go.
Van Dalen street, Ruimsig, Roodepoort. Tel: 011 958 2080.
25 Arkwright Avenue, Wynberg, Alexandra Township. Tel: 011 786 9806.
Described by one teaching professional as "not nice at all and a
dangerous area to drive in." State-run. The school is targeted for gradual
improvement under a government plan for the regeneration of Alexandra. Fees are
a mere R50 a month but the very impoverished community the school serves,
struggles to pay even that. Theft of equipment like computers adds to the
A physiotherapist visits for one morning a month during term time - a
total of eight mornings a year. Being adjacent to the Alexandra Health Centre
(itself under constant financial threat of closure) allows easy (basic) medical
treatment for the children. The brightest children are taught embroidery,
painting, woodwork, leatherwork - making items like pillows and purses for
sale. Children's success is measured in terms of whether they can recognise
colours and whether they can count to ten or to 20. Some are described as
unable to count "due to their speech impairment" but this does not explain if
they understand numbers and simply cannot articulate what they understand. The
children sweep their own classrooms and wash their dishes in the kitchen. Bible
stories are told under the life skills section of the curriculum. Some of the
children get an annual holiday to the seaside. The school struggles to exist
A state school, with a bus link to Woodside Sanctuary and neighbouring suburbs.
It is based at 24 Cressy Street, Kensington, Johannesburg. Tel 011 618 2300.
The Principal is Mrs Singh. Her Head of Department is Mimi le Roux. The school
has some very severely disabled children, from little girls with excessively
small heads to wheelchair-bound boys who have to be strapped in and spastic
girls whose hands are permanently contorted and effectively unusable, but who
can nonetheless paint with their feet. The children seen on a visit to the
school were generally clean, happy and being
well-stimulated within their limitations. They wear a scarlet tracksuit
uniform. A volunteer was playing the piano to one class, with all the pupils
singing along happily.
In the class with the brightest pupils, a variety of activities were
going on - from sewing (large stitches across a piece of cloth) to knitting (by
winding wool around wooden pegs on a board, rather than using knitting needles)
to drawing. Lesley Hudson teaches that class and was open to the idea of taking
a visually impaired child in, but the school nurse and therapists said that it
"against admissions policy".
Other children were playing sports outside. For some wheelchair-bound
boys this meant simply holding a corner of a bright rectangular cloth and using
what hand movement they had to move the cloth, and thence to move the ball. The
only swings available are "baby swings". Some children played in a large shared
sandpit; some other children played (sitting on chairs or wheelchairs)
alongside with individual "sand tables".
The fees in June 2001 were R220 a month and R180 a month for bus
transport to and from the school. Pupils must bring their own sandwiches.
The school refuses admission to blind or low vision pupils "because it
does not have appropriately trained staff." While the different topographical
levels of the school and lack of appropriate railings would make it much more
difficult to navigate than a school like Forest Town, blind walking children
would be no more complicated than many of the wheelchair-bound children.
This is in Auckland Park (corner Canary/Dordie Streets), Johannesburg,
next to Cottesloe Hospital and behind the SABC. Tel: 011 726 7318/9. Fax: 011
726 7329. Email: email@example.com
Manager: Marina Beukes.
The fees are R2266 a month (August 2002) but the actual cost of running
the home is R3700 per child per month. It has severely to profoundly mentally
disabled children right through to adults, boarding at the home. The brightest
residents go to "stimulation" classes but these too are quite limited. Many sit
on beanbags and watch television. It is a "cushioned environment" which would
not optimise a low vision child's development - such children need hard
surfaces e.g. wood, to hear where they are going and to get sound stimulation
from things touching or falling on interestingly acoustic surfaces. One blind
33-year-old resident can knit a little. He is the only blind resident. Some of
the "brightest" pupils go daily by bus to Doug Whitehead school, leaving around
7am and returning around 2pm. There are two children who live with their
families and just attend the centre daily. There is a strong Afrikaans
influence and staff seemed to find it hard to comprehend that a black child
might not understand either Afrikaans or a "black" language. Children and
adults who attend the stimulation class, have Bible study sessions. One teacher
seemed lost when asked about representing other religious perspectives but said
that he hadn't had to face the "problem" to date as the only Moslem resident
was too "low functioning" to attend such classes in any case. May 2001.
On a subsequent visit, staff said that a pre-school facility
had been set up with staff who had been trained at the Foundation School on the
East Rand. The most demanding activity being carried out in any area of the
building seemed to be building with bright coloured Duplo bricks (large-size
Lego). Due to the incontinence of patients (80 per cent are in nappies) there
are no carpets. Eighty per cent of the patients are also at risk of
self-injurious behaviour and are on medication to control this tendency. A
psychologist visits once a month, a doctor visits once a week. The matron is a
nurse and there are 108 children and 110 staff (but that is for a 24 hour
schedule and allows cover for holidays etc.)
A physiotherapist attends twice a week but has three physio assistants.
Four OT students from Wits University attend over five week periods. The home
would like a permanent occupational therapist. A volunteer (August 2002) comes
twice a week to carry out a brain dynamics programme with eight
children, over a three month period. It is sad place of strange-shaped nodding
folk; children in walking rings that aimlessly travel the floor, bumping into a
strangers legs repeatedly, unaware that they are causing pain. Adults
grab ones hands or clothing and stare or gibber or ask nonsensical
questions like: When did you come from Scotland? but have no
interest in the answer. Other adults knot pieces of string over parcels in a
pushchair for fun, or flick through magazines unable to read and not interested
in the pictures.
This school is fighting a battle with government (May 2001), as it has
been told to cut down the 28 house mothers to a total of six - and yet most of
the children need a great deal of care.
Sunshine Schools - preschools for disabled children, run
privately. A base at TMI and also in Craighall Park.
Avril Elizabeth Home
Castor Road, Fisher's Hill, Johannesburg. For mentally disabled
children. Privately run, costing R800 or more a child a month (June 2001).
Tel: 011 726 2445
Principal: John Seagers.
Privately run school for disabled children costing R1300 a month (June
2001). A low income parent said that his child would have to be taken out of
the school as a promised subsidy towards the high fees was not forthcoming.
Corner Harris and Wagenaar streets, Edenglen, Johannesburg. Privately
run. Tel: 011 609 7246
A training centre for low IQ young adults.
EP Baumann Primary School
Tel: 011 837 2719; 837 9369. Fax: 011 837 9219 Email:
Private Bag X04, Brixton, Johannesburg 2019.
This primary school in Mayfair caters for ordinary children with a
strong sense of discipline and a multi-faith (Hindu, Christian, Muslim) and
multicultural base. It has two special classes for young pupils and
for older pupils. Children who are slow learners for a variety of reasons are
placed in these classes.
The school admitted a pupil with delayed development due to prolonged
hospitalisation, and with no useful vision and no hands in October 2001 and she
continued as a pupil until August 2002.
Initially the school prepared wonderfully for this very unusual looking
pupil but the class teacher had decided to seek a better-paid job in 2001 and
succeeded in obtaining such a position in June 2002. The Department of
Education refused to fund a vital classroom assistant for the little girl. And
the school principal who had supported the policy of inclusion, was murdered in
a robbery in mid 2002.
The logical step is to equip EP Baumann to be the Johannesburg Primary
School specialising in inclusion to help low vision and blind children.
The extra cost burden on the school of an assistant made the governing
body less than warm towards the pupil and they alleged that her presence slowed
down the other learners.
The school was difficult for a blind learner to navigate around because
there were no railings. The policy of inclusion is pointless if the SA
government will not put money where its mouth is.