Agape School for Cerebral Palsied Children is one of the most misunderstood schools, says principal, Bernice Lambert.
Formerly known as the Eros Satellite School, Agape was started in January 1988, so this year it celebrates its 30th anniversary.
As the former name suggests, it formed part of the Eros School in Bridgetown, Athlone.
It was temporarily housed on the premises of Princess Vlei Primary School in Retreat but two years later, in January 1990, the school became independent and its name changed to Agape.
In 1990, the school moved to its new premises in Tafelsig.
The staff is made up of not only teachers but also counsellors, nursing sisters, speech therapists, physiotherapists,occupational therapists and class assistants.
The school follows the CAPS curriculum from Grade R to 7, and a CAPS-aligned skills development programme. Pupils are admitted to the school based on their level of need for specialised therapeutic medical and learning support, says Ms Lambert.
“Our school is misunderstood by the community. People think our school is like the school of skills but it is not. This school focuses on the highest level of support for the child.
“The whole idea is for the child not to stay at the school for too long but to get the help they need so that they can progress to the next phase of their education. It is also about the methodology on how the educators teach the pupils.
“They can teach the pupil the same topic in a mainstream school as in our school but it is all about methodology in the classroom,” she explains.
The pupils have a multi-disciplinary team who ensure that they are supported effectively to make progress through the curriculum.
The therapy they receive may be direct intervention with pupils or indirect intervention through provision of aides, support to the family or support to the educator to facilitate optimal involvement of the pupil in the classroom setting, says Ms Lambert.
Lindie Carstens, 45, from Muizenberg says her son was referred to Agape.
“My son came from a mainstream school. He was very unhappy especially with his report. He was referred to Agape and ever since he was placed here he was so happy. I had car trouble one day and he refused to stay at home that day, he really wanted to be at school.”
The school’s nursing sister administers treatment where necessary, ensuring the pupils receive prescribed medication as well as arrange a number of clinics for the benefit of the pupil.
Small class numbers ensure that the individual or small group educational support required, is provided.
Pupils admitted to Agape must be able to progress towards the outcomes in the CAPS curriculum and those with learning disabilities may only be eligible for admission for a short period of time, for example one to three years, depending on their progress.
“Some children need to stay at a mainstream school while we provide outreach to them. Most parents or teachers will reach out to us to help and we will assist in giving them programmes to be part of. We also help those who cannot be in our classrooms due to space giving them programmes as well,” says Ms Lambert.
Agape accommodates pupils with cerebral palsy, physical disabilities as well as specific learning disabilities.
They also accommodate pupils with autism and syndromes such as Russel-Silver syndrome and Williams syndrome to name a few.
Fahiema Adams, 13, from Lentegeur, who was involved in a taxi accident, says she likes that their classes are small and that teachers give them personal attention.
“I like that we are few pupils in the class as the teacher will take their time with you. I really liked my Grade 5 teacher, she spoiled us a lot. Being in an accident with the taxi was a lot for me.
“I saved my little sister, pushed her out of the way so that she doesn’t get knocked over. After the accident I found that I smile more.”
Another pupil, Zubair van Dieman, 14, from Tafelsig says: “I like learning new things at this school. I read a prayer at the thanksgiving ceremony this year, I enjoyed it. The children at home are different to the children here.
“The children at home wants to be gangsters but I don’t want that for myself, I want to achieve great things.”
Mathew Carstens, 10, from Muizenberg adds; “I found it hard to make friends at my old school. Since I have been at Agape, I have made many friends. I still feel like a normal kid now that I am at this school.”
Chanté Smith, 14, from Westridge participated in the Champs of Champs as well as the Western Province athletics team. She came first in long jump and the 200m sprint.
“I had a problem in my left leg when I was younger, I had meningitis in it. Now, I focus on my sport and work hard to excel in that.”
Agape will mark its 30th anniversary with events throughout the rest of the year.