The doors of the first school for children with disabilities in Mfuleni
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CAPE TOWN- In a celebration accompanied by songs, dance and ululations, the doors of the first school for children with disabilities was opened in Mfuleni on Tuesday.
The Lonwabo Special Care Centre, which started as a backroom daycare for two children with special needs, will now reach out to equip more children for their future.
The building includes an interactive outdoor play area, a space for specialised community projects and a centre for early childhood development.
Founder Thandeka Mafila’s dream for the facility became a reality through the support of Starting Chance, a non-profit public benefit organisation that is passionate about education and early childhood development.
“The dream started when I used to reside in Paarl and my husband had a business there. For some reason, children with disabilities loved to visit the store and spend the day with us. We noticed some families would not even check upon the children as they would arrive in the morning and stay until the afternoon.”
Mafila said when they moved to Mfuleni they noticed the same trend, where children with disabilities were not being properly cared for, with no school in the area for their needs.
“When I heard the founder of Vukani Centre for Children with Special Needs in Khayelitsha urging people on the radio to start a similar thing, this touched my heart and I started the centre in my backroom which was met with a lot of challenges and the use of personal funds.
“Today I am so grateful to Starting Chance and all donors because I have been praying for this space for the last 13 years. These children indeed have a starting chance. I’m also grateful for my family that has been patient throughout the years,” said Mafila.
Starting Chance founder Ian Corbett said he was hoping the centre will make a difference in the lives of over 2 000 children in the area that need special assistance.
“Building the centre has been a roller-coaster journey. We needed more funds than we anticipated because of equipment needed. Through faith, belief and support of the community and donors we are here today celebrating.”
Excited parent Vatiswa Qashani, who has a 3-year-old son with autism, said she had to pull her child out of a local school because they did not cater for him. She has stayed home with him for the past two years.
“I am impressed by the learning areas that will stimulate my child's mind. Teachers here will be patient with him and he won’t feel left behind.”