Melissa and Alfonzo, with Alonzo Jonkerman. Picture: Bertram Malgas/Daily Voice
Melissa and Alfonzo, with Alonzo Jonkerman. Picture: Bertram Malgas/Daily Voice

High hopes for the first Down Syndrome child in public school

By Robin-Lee Francke Time of article published Jan 23, 2017

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Cape Town – This little boy is ready to jump out of his skin with excitement as he prepares to go to “big school” on Monday.

What makes five-year-old Alonzo Jonkerman, who suffers from Down Syndrome, extra special is that he will not be attending a special needs school, but a regular one.

The Mitchells Plain child starts his schooling journey on Monday at AZ Berman Primary School as a Grade R learner.

And no one is more proud of the cute little boy than his parents, Melissa and Alfonzo Jonkerman.

“He is special and he’s our little angel from God. He plays soccer and everything like a normal child and we are so excited to start this new journey with him,” says Melissa.

Alfonzo says Alonzo will be the first child with special needs to attend a public school in the Western Cape, and the family hopes he will be paving the way for other kids like him.

“Alonzo’s going to be the first Down Syndrome child in a public school. The education department is doing a trial run with Alonzo and his aunt will be his teacher’s aid,” dad Alfonzo says.

And mom Melissa believes her son will flourish as he is apparently “quite the ladies’ man”.

“Alonzo knows everyone and speaks to everyone. He’s a very popular five-year-old and gets more attention than any of us do on social media,” she laughs.

Melissa says they only discovered Alonzo had Down Syndrome two days after he was born.

“The paediatrician told us signs of Down Syndrome were visible. It was difficult at first but the support we received from family and our church was incredible,” Melissa says.

Down Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder arising at conception. It is a result of an extra number 21 chromosome (Trisomy 21), which forms due to a random error in cell division, and causes delays in physical and intellectual development in affected individuals.

Alfonzo says the school has been preparing learners for Alonzo’s arrival.

“The school has had a psychologist meet with his classmates to prepare them for Alonzo, explaining that he is different but as special as all of them are,” says the dad.

“I went to the school last week and his little desk and chair is already waiting. The teacher asked learners: who will be coming today, and they all shouted Alonzo!"

“We’re not really expecting any difficulties, because he is more advanced than other Down Syndrome kids his age. Down Syndrome children usually start walking from age four or five, but he started from age two.

“We hope this can inspire other parents. The message we want to put across is that your child can live a normal life, all they need is love.”

Daily Voice

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