Our Story

Thuthukani Special School was established in February 1981, by Mrs James, Director of Zululand Mental Health. At that time there was no facility to care for black children with intellectual disability. She advised her social workers that she would take care of 4 such children whom they had identified. She opened her own home to these learners, and within 2 weeks the number of children had increased to 20 learners. Mrs James initially rented a house in town, and soon she had 60 learners and staff. In 1987 a landowner in the Empangeni area donated farm land to the school, and the (then) government of South Africa provided funds for Thuthukani to build a school.

Our School

Thuthukani Special School in Empangeni is a school for children with intellectual disability aged 6 to 18 years. The school has grown significantly over the years and currently we are educating as many learners we can physically cater for. We are based on a sugarcane farm just outside of Empangeni and we accept learners from Empangeni, Richards Bay, eNseleni, Kwa-Monambi, eSikhaweni, Ngwelezana, and other rural areas.

The learners are all intellectually disabled and come from multicultural, multi-language backgrounds, and often have more than one disability. The main aim of the school program is to build our learners’ self-esteem and to ensure that they leave the school as independent as possible, equipped with skills they can use to contribute to their communities.

Thuthukani focuses on holistic education. A specially adapted teaching program, based on the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) and CAPS is followed to equip learners with life skills and basic academic skills. Over and above the class program the learners get the opportunity to participate in sport, dancing, cultural activities, choir, physical education, occupational therapy and more. This ensures their social, emotional, motor and cognitive development at all levels. We also offer a Skills Development Program for the stronger school leavers where they learn good work habits as well as the skill of cleaning, gardening or sewing. The Department of Social Development has a workshop for disabled workers on the premises. This offers supported work opportunities for other learners as well as disabled members of the community once they leave school.

Thuthukani Special School has been identified as a Resource Centre by the National and Provincial Department of Education to pilot the National Educational Policy on Inclusion. Surrounding schools can and do contact us for assistance and guidance in improving the education of learners with intellectual disability.

Many of our learners come from very poor families and arrive at school hungry. We therefore have a feeding program at school where we provide each learner with two meals per day. The school also provides learning and teaching support material to the learners.

To ensure that our learners are included and not segregated from their peers, we have an active sport and cultural program where our learners have the opportunity to compete against both disabled and non-disabled learners.  We do not provide a boarding facility at our school.  This allows our learners to have similar “out of school” experiences as their peers and assists with better community inclusion.  All our learners are assisted with public transport to and from school on a daily basis.

To assist the parents of our learners – we have kept our school fees at R120 per month. (Compared to other schools in the area who charge between R600 and R2000 per month.) At our last AGM many parents indicated that this amount is appreciated, but still hard to afford. In fact – less than 14% of our parents are able to afford the school fees.

Thuthukani receives a subsidy from the SA Government, but this amount is not sufficient to run the school effectively and safely for our learners. We rely on fundraising to effectively operate the school.