70th Birthday Celebration – 1948-2018
This year is our 70th Birthday celebration. 2018 is a milestone in the history of our school.
Let us step back in time and look at the colourful history of Forest Town School.
THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME – FOREST TOWN SCHOOL.
It could be assumed that Forest Town School was named after the suburb Forest Town, but that is not the case. The name “Forest Town” can be traced back to municipal documents dating back to 1894. During the late eighteen hundreds, trees were planted in the Forest Town area to provide timber for the mining industry until the 1920’s. Over time, the area became a forest and workers and domestic employees who worked for the Lords and Ladies in Westcliff and Parktown, started taking up residence in small dwellings in the forest to be closer to their place of work. As the inhabitants grew in number, it became known as a town in the forest, or Forest Town.
The question is, how did it come about that the first school that was established in South Africa for Cerebral Palsied children was called Forest Town School? The answer lies in the founding history of the school. In 1945 there was almost no general knowledge of cerebral palsy in South Africa. In November 1948, a group of people decided to start a school for their cerebral palsied children, as the mainstream schools could not cater for them. The first school was housed in the Methodist Church hall in Norwood. At that stage, the school was not yet called Forest Town School.
In January 1949 the Transvaal Department of Education made the Forest Town State School for Orphans, which was being used as an orphanage school available, and the “Forest Town School for Spastics” came into being. They took over the name of the existing school by taking away the word “Orphans” and replaced it with “Spastics”. It was reported in the Star newspaper of 4 February 1949, that at least 40 children in Johannesburg were handicapped by cerebral palsy and that they now have their own school in Johannesburg.
Interestingly enough, the name Forest Town School for Spastics was kept until 1955 when it was decided to change the name to “Johannesburg Treatment Centre for Cerebral Palsied Children”. In spite of the efforts to change the name, it would appear that the name Forest Town was well established and it became “Forest Town School for Cerebral Palsied Children”.
The school was financed by the Transvaal Association for the Care of Cerebral Palsied Children (TACCP), with the aid of a government grant until 1954 when it was brought under the jurisdiction of the Special Education Act and became a state-aided school. This momentous event was a great tribute to the pioneers who had started the work.
An article in a magazine which was published in 1952, gave the following interesting statistics 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?” We cannot answer that, but we can tell you where we are 70 years later. We have 360 learners, 86 staff members and too many rooms to count.
PEOPLE WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE
There are many people who have made a huge difference in the history of the school and in caring for the Cerebral Palsied child. There is only space to name but a few.
Dr. William Nicol: Administrator of the Transvaal (1948-1958) wrote in an article in 1952: “The Transvaal Administration is happy to be associated with the care of Spastics in maintaining the Forest Town School.” His work, especially with regard to education and culture, continued to grow. Today he is still remembered for the major road, William Nicol Drive, which is named after him.
Mr H.A. Jack: Chairman of the Transvaal school board in 1948, negotiated the use of the Forest Town School for Orphans for the new “Spastic School”. The school H.A. Jack was named after him.
Mrs Frances Vorwerg: The second principal of Forest Town School, became internationally known for her outstanding work in the field of Cerebral Palsy. Frances Vorwerg School was named after her.
Mrs Ginsberg: She was actively involved in the formation of the first school for Cerebral Palsied children and in later years she was instrumental in starting the Pretoria School for Cerebral Palsy.
Mr Pieter Roos: He was actively involved in the school for many years. There is a statue of him in the front entrance of the school to honour and pay tribute to the memory of a remarkable and unforgettable personality. As Mayor of Johannesburg (1964-1965), he made Cerebral Palsy his theme. He was instrumental in acquiring 40 acres of land on which Forest Farm Adult Centre for the Cerebral Palsied was built.
He was also instrumental in the acquiring and demolition of adjoining properties to the existing school, in order to build a new school. The school was built without interrupting the teaching programme of the existing school. It was officially opened in 1970.
Mrs Hilda Craig: First Physiotherapist of the school. She inspired her husband, Prof. Dr. Jimmy Craig (orthopaedic surgeon) to become involved with the cerebral palsied children at Forest Town School.
Prof Dr Jimmy Craig: He worked with the cerebral palsied children at Forest Town School, and he became world renowned for the Forest Town School Boot. The boot assisted the children with their walking. He dedicated his life to children with cerebral palsy. He is known as the father of surgery for persons with cerebral palsy in South Africa.
THE SCHOOL EMBLEM
We are proud of our emblem and the message it carries.
The emblem today is still the same, except that the word “Opstaan” was taken away in 2011 as we are no longer a dual medium school.
Over the years a beautiful emblem was designed featuring a Phoenix Bird. We strongly identify with the mythological Phoenix bird that had a predetermined amount of time to exist, before it would throw itself into the fire. The Phoenix Birds existed one at a time, each rising up from the ashes of its predecessor. We believe that each of us, like the Phoenix Bird, lives for a time in ways that call us to throw ourselves into the fires of the unknown and the discomfort of change, as part of our ever-unfolding awakening to the awareness of our own personal enlightenment. The fires of life help us to understand that we are on a journey that is a process, and not a destination.
THE SCHOOL SONG
Over the years the children have been singing this song, and it is just as applicable today as it was when it was first introduced. We believe that the school song will still be applicable in many years to come as long as Forest Town School retains its unique character and culture.
As pupils of Forest Town We greet you with pride and joy A smile on the face And a laugh in the eye Of every girl and boy. Our motto says arise On this we’ll build our lives As we work with the rest And give of our best Nothing will get us down Not even once we leave Forest Town
THE SCHOOL ETHOS – NURTURE, SUPPORT, EMPOWER
Forest Town School will never lose its very special character. The school has a unique atmosphere. There is a particular warmth between the children and staff. Visitors frequently remark on the caring and loving atmosphere at the school. Forest Town School has indeed come a long way. True to its emblem, it has been a Phoenix, rising from the ashes. This would not have been possible without the support, co-operation and understanding of the Government, Education Department, parents, patrons, donors and individuals.
Dr. Louise Lovell
(For a more detailed history of the school, please read the other articles on our website)