Safe haven for the disabled children

A Tafelsig educare centre has been a haven for disabled children for the past 30 years, embracing the many diverse cultures, beliefs and traditions represented by its pupils

Joy Special Needs Educare Centre, in Dassenberg Street, opened its doors between August and September three decades ago, offering peace of mind for concerned parents in the area who had children with disabilities.

It was (and still is) managed by the parents and fell under the auspices of the Association for Persons with Disabilities (APD). The property was leased from the then Council of Cape Town.

The centre caters for children with multiple disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy and its aim is to develop the children within a set time so that those who are able to progress to Learners with Special Educational Needs (LSEN) schools.

In 2002 the educare centre was registered as a non-profit organisation.

Two years later Edgar Payne and his wife Alvirah, from Morgenster, transferred their son Edgar Junior, who is now 24 years old and has cerebral palsy, from Friends Day Care Centre in Maitland to the Tafelsig school because of transport constraints.

In 2006 and 2007 the centre battled to meet its daily expenses. It was then when Ms Payne, who worked as a human resources officer for a private company, donated her monthly salary to the centre and became head of the centre.

Ms Payne died in April 2015 after a long fight with cancer.

Mr Payne, the centre’s programme manager, said it was only afterwards that he began to fully understand why his wife would always say that the centre has to be kept open. “These children are special and they need our help,” he said.

He starts collecting the children, with a minibus from about 7am, within Mitchell’s Plain and surrounding areas, for school to start at 9am.

He said they also have to ensure that they have qualified teachers who are able to monitor and evaluate all pupils’ development and a cook to prepare meals. “We have to get the children to reach their optimal potential,” he said.

Mr Payne said his grandson, 8, cannot understand why his uncle, Edgar Junior, cannot communicate at times “but we have to explain to him that Edgar Junior is differently-abled”.

The centre hopes to one day be open 24/7 to be a home for disabled children.

For more information about the centre, call Mr Payne on 021 376 5292, 071 044 5015 or email