FOREST TOWN SCHOOL – 65 YEARS OLD

 1948-2013

 To celebrate the 65 year anniversary of Forest Town School, we have decided to remove the old logo at the front entrance and replace it with a big name board which will also display our new logo. The old logo will be kept for historical purposes and will be displayed on a wall of the old building.

As attention was given to a new logo, interest in the history of the phoenix bird was sparked on our logo.  A poster explaining the significance of the phoenix bird on the logo will be displayed in our front entrance.   See the poster attached at the end of this report.

             Track Record of Activities and developments at the school from 1948 – 2013

 The following is to highlight a few activities/projects and developments at the school over the last 65 years.

1948:   Established as the first school in South Africa for children with cerebral palsy.

1948 – 1968:   Partnerships with specialized medical professionals were set up, and services offered free of charge in: Plastic Surgery, Neurology, ENT and Orthopedic Surgery and Pediatrics.

The school devised specialized educational models which were then utilized as standard practice in special needs schools by the Transvaal Department of Education.

Specialized therapy treatments were devised in Occupational, Speech and Physiotherapy, including the famous “Forest Town School Boot”, for children with cerebral palsy.

1968 – 1990:   The school opened to all races with numbers increasing to over 250 learners between 3 and 14 years of age. Two separate systems of education were devised and established:  An adapted mainstream and the skills based modified stream for children with severe challenges.

1996:   The first trials in South Africa for the use of Botulinum Toxin (BOTOX®) in the hands of children with cerebral palsy were conducted by Professor Lawrence Chait (Plastic Surgeon).

1998:   The Sunbeam Caregiver Training Centre opened to train caregivers working in severely under-resourced centres, schools and homes for the disabled throughout Gauteng.   Services of professional specialists at the school were used to provide knowledge and resources previously not available to disadvantaged areas.

The Tsoga Arts and Crafts Centre started in 1998. In March 1998 the Governing Body was approached to implement a Teenage Skills Training Centre. In August 1998 the official opening of the new Centre took place.

1999:   In February 1999 Mary Metcalf, then MEC for Education in Gauteng, had tea in the TSOGA Coffee Shop.

2000:   August 2000: The Tsoga Craft and Coffee Shop relocated to the” Skills Training Centre”, where they are now.  On the 01st August 2000, Mr. I Jacobs, then MEC of education, and Mr. Basson launched the new “Skills Training Centre”.

The first BOTOX® Clinic at Forest Town School opened in the Occupational Therapy Department for upper limbs, shortly followed by the lower limb clinic in the Physiotherapy Department.

2006:   The Work Experience Programme (WEP) was devised and implemented, with training including Hair Dressing, ICDL Training, and Upholstery training, for learners between 16 and 18 years of age.

BOTOX was used for the first time to reduce drooling in children at a special needs school           in South Africa.

2006 – 2008:   Despite being turned down for SETA accreditations for WEP courses, private organisations willing to adapt their criteria for accreditation were sourced for all aspects of training.  These include:

University of Johannesburg

Papillion Foundation

Microsoft

Anthos Bakery

Beaute Nouvelle

Face-to-Face

LIS Hospitality & Tourism College

2008:   A new Beauty Therapy Training Centre was built, extending training from basic hairdressing to massage, hot-stone massage, pedi- and manicures, and gel nail applications.    A new IT Technology Training Centre was opened, offering training in hardware, software, refurbishment, sales and other services.

A Social Work Department was opened to deal with the high rate of abuse, chronic illness, and families impacted by the effects of poverty.

2009:   The Rise Commercial Bakery for production of bread and related products was constructed, due to the continued high rate of unemployment of 18 year old school leavers. These learners are not yet mature or skilled enough due to the nature of their disabilities, and there is reluctance by prospective employers to provide the high level of support in the work place, for people with disabilities. This led the school to devise and implement the first post school learnership programme in a NGO/School in South Africa, which opened in 2009 for learners between.

2009 – 2010:   Due to the lack of appropriate skills training for more severely disabled learners, who cannot enter more formalized employment, the school started brainstorming as to how best our learners could be assisted with the necessary skills development that would be useful in the home and in the community for learners between 13 and 18 years of age.

Research was conducted by one of the speech therapists efficacy of the use of BOTOX for drooling in children with cerebral palsy.

The Sunbeam Caregiver Training centre had to cease operations.   Being conducted in a school setting, the utilization of school staff does not fall under the employment policies set  out for educators and therapists by the Department of Education.   In the future, it may be possible for interested parties to set up a separate NGO, with outsourced specialists and possible government subsidies and accreditation for the training, but this has to be completely separate from the school, except perhaps for renting a training venue and access to practical training in some departments.

2011:

A new Imikhonto Training Centre was built which accommodates 96 learners.

An Anger Management programme was initiated to help deal with difficult issues that impact on their conduct both at home and in school.

2012:

A Spinal Clinic was opened in the Physiotherapy Department and a Splinting Clinic in the Occupational Therapy Department.

A Girls Finishing School course has been implemented and facilitated by Bella Donna Classes for Post-School Learnership students, and all learners attend the Heartlines Core Values and Life Skills Programmes.

The first WEP@Work IT Technology student receives an internship at the IT Department at Pretoria Portland Cement.

Members of the Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy Departments started the Respite Care Programme for Forest Town School families. Respite care is the provision of short-term, temporary relief to those who are caring for learners requiring full-time care.

2013:

Six new Confectionery Training Workstations were installed in the Rise Bakery.   Barista training was commenced for three Post-School students.

In May 2013 discussions took place with the Deputy Minister from the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, the SETA departments, the Japanese Government and JICA (Japanese International Co-operation Agency), Pretoria Portland Cement and Forest Town School, to address the following:

  • Subsidies for the WEP@Work post-school learnership training centre.
  • Financial support for Forest Town School as the feeder school into WEP.
  • Extending the training of Skills Development and Work-Based Training nationally, using the Work Experience Programme (WEP) model.

Adaptations to SETA entry level requirements for learners with disabilities.

On 20 May 2013 Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, the Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities visited Forest Town School. We had a well-attended function in the hall and various speakers addressed us.

Mrs Marion Leatherbarrow

Grant and Programme Manager

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 The following is a short summary of the messages that were delivered on 20 May 2013 during the visit from the Deputy Minister-Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu.     

Welcome

Mrs Leatherbarrow welcomed JICA and other organisations and individuals who were attending the official handover.  She listed the wide range of services the school provides, in addition to the school curriculum.  These include clinical services offering medical and therapeutic treatments including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and Botox treatment for children with cerebral palsy.

Mrs Leatherbarrow acknowledged the support of the parents, local community, donors and other partners.  These partners include the British Army Royal Signals soldiers who spend two weeks of each year at the school, where they voluntarily perform maintenance services on the school’s infrastructure.  The partners also include individuals who volunteer other services.  Mrs Leatherbarrow concluded her address by suggesting society was entering a new stage of greater acceptance of children with disabilities.

 Dr Louise Lovell

Principal’s Address

Dr Lovell gave a brief history of how the school started in 1948 with six cerebral palsied children.  An article in a magazine which was published in 1952, gave the following interesting graph on the growth of the school since 1948.

1948 –  6 children –   2 staff –  1 room

1949 –  14 children –  3 staff –  4 rooms

1950 – 18 children –  4 staff –  4 rooms

1951 –  22 children –  5 staff –  5 rooms

1952 –  45 children –  10 staff –  7 rooms

The article asked: “Where will they be in 1953?”  Sixty years later, the school has 343 learners, 86 staff members and more than a 100 rooms. The school is now 65 years old and it may well be asked – “Where will the school be when it celebrates a 100 years of existence in 2048?”

Over the years, the school acquired more land and expanded, with a new school being built in 1970.   Children are admitted from the age of three upwards and provided with individual attention, including a range of therapeutic services.  A skills-based programme is provided for children requiring additional intervention in a modified learning environment.  From the age of 18, children who have completed the curriculum can enter a work experience programme that includes skills-based training to prepare them for work.

Forest Town School will never lose its very special character. The school has a unique atmosphere. There is particular warmth between the children and staff. Visitors frequently remark on the caring and loving attitude of the staff. Forest Town School has indeed come a long way. True to its emblem, it has been a phoenix, rising from the ashes. It could not have done so without the support, co-operation and understanding of the government, education department, parents, patrons, donors and individuals.

Dr Lovell concluded by expressing her gratitude to all who have contributed to the success of the school over the years.

Mrs Ntombi Langa-Royds

PPC Social Ethics Chairperson

Mrs Langa-Royds said PPC’s corporate social investment (CSI) was aimed at contributing towards thriving and sustainable communities.  PPC’s journey with Forest Town School started in 2007 and involved the refurbishing of four playgrounds.  The company’s main objective was to bring dignity into the lives of the students.  In line with this thinking, PPC funded the installation of the bakery in 2009, so that students could gain work experience.  With the official handover of the bakery, PPC hoped children with disabilities would be better equipped to contribute to the economy.  By working together, more could be done to remove barriers to people with disabilities.

Phakamane Zwane and Siphesihle Gumede

Learners at the school

The two learners addressed the audience.  One said he had spent many years at the school and was grateful to the teachers for their support, which had enabled him to be part of the community.   The other said he had grown up as a member of the school and there was no better family he could ask for.  He was now employed as part of the school community.

Dr Valencia Mabalane

SGB member and a parent at the school

 Dr Mabalane said disabled children had for many years been excluded and shut away in large institutions.  These children had their own needs and abilities and could learn at their own pace.  They wanted the same opportunities as other children, but found society had created barriers over and above the barriers they already had.  Disabled people did not want special treatment, but they wanted the removal of stigmas and stereotypes.  They did not need pity, but needed open doors.

            Mrs Ronalda Lucas

            Deputy Principal                 

The school’s Work Experience Programme (WEP @ Work) includes a coffee shop, IT centre, bakery, beauty therapy and barista training.  It is a bridging programme for students who have completed their schooling.  WEP @ Work provides skills that will enable these students to find work.  The programme is run in conjunction with various partners including the University of Johannesburg, the Papillon Foundation, L’Oreal and Face to Face beauty and make-up design school.

Students who graduate from WEP @ Work are given an opportunity to work with new entrants to the programme, to impart the skills they have learned.  They are paid a stipend for this assistance and this helps ease them into the world of work.  A graduate of the programme, Benjamin Louw, has found work servicing the Forest Town School computers.  The programme also links in with sector education and training authorities (SETAs) in its attempts to develop skills and find jobs for students.

Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu

Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities

 Ms Bogopane-Zulu began by saying President Zuma had a vision when he established the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities.  She then went on to speak about her own experience of being born with a visual impairment and the challenges she had to overcome growing up with this disability.  The minister noted that since 1996, the South African Constitution had made it clear that no-one could be discriminated against on the basis of disability. Those who discriminated could be taken to the Equality Court for doing so.

Article 23 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, outlined society’s obligations towards children with disabilities and the rights of these children.  The South African Constitution had qualified all rights with a resources-permitting clause, but the rights of the child were paramount and not qualified.

The minister acknowledged JICA’s support in having invited a delegation from her department to visit Swan Bakery in Japan, which provided a model of best-practice in employing disabled people in a business that had expanded and become very successful.

        School Tour

 The speeches were followed by a tour of the school, including the official handover of the bakery and IT workshop.


          Closing Statement   

As a team at Forest Town School, we believe we have upheld our commitment in every sphere of school life.  I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to parents and staff for their support and hard work during this period. I am sure that our parents will agree with me that our staff is highly motivated and dedicated group of people and they deserve the highest praise.

            Dr Louise Lovell

            Principal