S Dass provides a beacon of
hope for disabled pupils
23 February 2012 | Rubeshni Chetty
Peacefully nestled in the residential area of Sunford (Phoenix), the S Dass school for the mentally and physically disabled has been catering for children with special needs for over 25 years.
The school caters for pupils from the Amouti, Inanda, Phoenix, KwaMashu, Mount Edgecombe, Duffs Road, Avoca Hills, Corovoca, Quarry Heights and Mount Moriah areas, with the school’s enrolment totaling 180 pupils with another 20 on the waiting list.
Prior to the establishment of the school, disabled pupils could only attend the Golden Gateway School for the intellectually impaired in Cato Manor. However, the enrolment of the school grew to such an extent that the school could no longer accommodate all of the disabled pupils. The board of management of the Golden Gateway School then acquired land in the Phoenix area and with a subsidy from the department of education, the foundation of another school was laid. The S Dass School was established in 1987 and was originally called the Phoenix school for the disabled. The S Dass family, through a substantial sponsorship acquired the naming rights to the school. The school is a section 14 school, which means that it is a public school on private property.
Pupils of the S Dass school are given individual attention in all aspects of the child’s development. The national curriculum has also been adapted to cater for pupils with special needs. Many pupils require psychological counselling, which is offered at the school. They require a lot of patience and compassion from staff and according to school statistics about 70 percent of pupils are on medication. The special needs of children with autism are also met, with the school providing human resources, furniture and teaching support material. The school makes a special appeal to the community and businesses to assist them with the resources mentioned.
The school also assists pupils by educating them and placing emphasis on self-help skills and skills training such as dressing skills, dining skills, socialisation, bead making, candle making, gardening, motor care, cookery, pottery, sewing, woodwork as well as basic academic skills. The school is also preparing to introduce basic plumbing, bricklaying and basic electrical skills.
The school does receive a subsidy from the KwaZulu-Natal education department, which they gratefully accept, however the amount is insufficient to cover the total running cost of the school. As such, the school is compelled to host fund raising events. The school hosts two major fundraising events for the year, the first being a corporate golf day which is held every March/April. The second fundraiser for the year is the Gold Cup which takes place at Greyville Race course in August.
School principal, Mr Dawlathram said, "There are a lot of people around the school who are unemployed, retired or self-employed who have the skills which will have relevance to our pupils. It would be sincerely appreciated if these community members could impart some of their skills onto our pupils and staff. We have a huge school campus and ground, as well as a number of utilities such as our school buses, if there are people who have skills in these areas we would like for our pupils to learn these skills.” The S Dass school has several businesses that they have partnered with, such as KFC Phoenix, Nagiah's Meat Market, Maharaj's Prayer Goods, Hasmed Pharmacy, KK Fast Foods, Spicee stores and Salon Star. The school is extremely grateful to these businesses for allowing their pupils to train free of charge in their stores. Mr Dawlathram further added, "Although legislation states that two percent of labour force in the country must come from the disabled community, this does not seem to be happening and is not adequately enforced by government. One or two pupils per year, from our school do get employed in the open labour market. KFC Phoenix has employed four of our pupils thus far."