Nurturing wonderful children

Over the years, Hope School has produced some of the country’s foremost sportspeople. However, it has provided an environment for disabled children to fulfill their potential since 1929.

In May, Seventeen learners from Hope School participated in the Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled. The athletes set six South African records and won 31 gold medals, 18 silvers and one bronze in the various track and field sports, as well as power lifting, cycling, boccia and swimming.

In addition, Jappie Thulo and Mpho Mainyangane represented South Africa at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Junior Championships, which were run concurrently with the Nedbank Championships. Thulo won four gold and three silver medals, while Mainyangane won four gold and five silver medals.

The junior sportsman of the event also went to Mainyangane, while Irish Matsheke was chosen to represent South Africa as a VIP Observer at the Visa Paralympic World Championships to be held in Manchester at the end of May.

Chris du Toit, project and fund coordinator for Hope School says that taking part in sport is an essential aspect of the development and rehabilitation programme for challenged children. “Being able to participate on a national level is a wonderful and important opportunity for our children to gain confidence and improve physically and emotionally.”

Hope School was originally the family home of Raymond Shumacher and his wife Hope, almost 100 years ago. The house, based on a 1903 design by Sir Herbert Baker, was named Pallinghurst. In 1916, anti-German feeling became threatening, so the Schumachers returned to England and donated Pallinghurst as a home for physically disabled children run by the Hope Convalescent Home committee. The then Transvaal Education Department later built a school on the Westcliff property.

Today, Hope School is still in the same grounds. It caters for children with physical challenges in the Johannesburg area, providing education from pre-school to Grade 12. Subjects are taught in higher grade, enabling learners to qualify for university entrance.

“We have 220 children with various physical barriers in the school,” says du Toit. “The barriers include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, genetic disorders and birth defects, and sadly, highjack and road accident victims with spinal cord injuries.

“Our first priority is to educate, develop and support the child. The need for education and support is far greater than a child without barriers. Holistic development of physically challenged children is of the utmost importance.”

At the same time, the needs of the children must be recognised like those of ordinary children too, insofar as their intellectual and emotional abilities are concerned.

Hope School retains professional personnel such as a psychologist as well as physio, speech and occupational therapists and nurses, who provide training, care and support for the children. It is a critical element of the school’s role to ensure that their psychological and constant physical needs are addressed. Mainstream schools do not provide such support.

“In terms of academics, the school can boast a 100% pass rate for Grade 12 almost without exception. “The school has won the award for the best matric results by an LSEN school in Gauteng twice.” Says du Toit.

In sport, the school continues to produce athletes that are selected to national teams, as the recent Nedbank Championships shows. “The courage and spirit to grow and excel remains part of the Hope School ethos; It is a part of our everyday existence.”

Almost 60% of Hope School’s pupils are from previously disadvantaged communities. The financial support received by the school from parents is often insufficient, as many families are unable to afford the necessary treatment and assistive devices such as catheters, calipers and wheelchairs required for their children’s care and development. Many pupils also have severe disabilities that require specialised equipment. As a result, fundraising is a continuous effort by the school and governing body.

“Changes to the education system have brought new challenges. But the school has avoided negative impact in the short term and continues to grow, thanks to the dedication, perseverance, hard work and positive drive of our staff, the parents and our amazing learners.

“The way forward looks bright and welcoming. The future success of the school will be due to those who love, adore and cherish our special children in their hearts.” says du Toit.

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