What an honour and privilege to spend some time visiting the Tembaletu School in the township of Guguletu, Cape Town South Africa. This boarding school does an amazing job caring for, and educating 180 kids (Grades R to 9) with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida and physical injuries caused by accidents, amputations and resulting in quadriplegia.
Most of these children are very high in their cognition and intellect, but must deal with the challenges of language, mobility, rehabilitation, and discrimination. Most of these children find it difficult to move about the home and their community because of the very poor roads, footpaths and lack of wheel chair access. At home these children usually do nothing. Their emotional frustrations are understandable. School is therefore a haven and many often cry when it is time to head home for the school holidays.
These kids need intensive and specialised care and they are blessed to come to this school. Tembaletu means ‘our hope’ and this place is the very essence of hope for the future. The Principal, Mr Pather, a passionate educator told me of his vision for the future. To be honest I was a little surprised but then I was reminded that I am an educator from first world Sydney. His comments silenced me and challenged me to be grateful for all that I have – in my work, and the personal comforts that I so often take for granted.
Mr Pather reflected “My vision is to improve our safety and security.” When I asked him to explain further, he spoke about the erection of new perimeter fencing.
“Do you mean the safety and security of the school itself, or the safety and security of students?” I asked.
“Both” he replied. “There are people who want to steal things and there are people who will hurt the learners”.
“Our other challenge and great need is to keep the buses working and repairing the wheelchairs which damage so easily due to the roads and conditions of the homes and own ships that the kids live in.”
“Many kids are upset because it’s school holidays tomorrow and they do not want to leave.”
“When a child has an accident he is a learner who is suddenly in limbo. He must get used to life in a wheel chair. Many children do not cope with this at all”.
“We have to transition them home and out of school, it’s safe here, with love and belonging. Most kids do not go home to this.”
The influence of this man is significant and once again, I am reminded that teachers and educators change the lives of individuals, families, communities and nations. If you are a teacher, never underestimate the power of your hard work.
…And for all of us, may we always be thankful for the blessing of a great school.