Pre-Vocational Phase

Once a learner reaches 16 years of age, they attend the Senior phase at Thuthukani Special School. During their time in the Senior phase, over and above the academic curriculum, our learners are exposed to the working world, and are introduced to prevocational skills, such as basic budgeting, telling time, following instructions, job awareness etc.

Selected learners from our Senior class participate in the “Amathuba Program” and go to “work” on Wednesdays at various businesses in Empangeni.

Thanks to Rotary Empangeni and their international partners, Thuthukani Special School could develop and implement the Pre-Vocational Phase at the school. This program commenced in 2007. The Fuchs Foundation also funded the program for a year. The School Governing Body raises funds to sustain this phase.

During the year in which the they turn 19, learners are selected to be trained in specific work skills. The process starts with a thorough assessment by an Occupational Therapist to establish each learner’s ability to learn and perform the work, and to make a suitable placement in the Skills Classes. Thuthukani offers the following work skill training: Gardening, Domestic Cleaning and Sewing.

The program is designed to run for a year, during which the learners are taught the skills required to perform the tasks related to their selected job. Instructors with experience and knowledge in these jobs work with the learners to teach them how to do the actual job. The learners also follow a prevocational skills program designed by the occupational therapist to teach them the skills they need to be a good worker in the open labour market, such as punctuality, working with money, social skills, how to present in an interview etc.

Before the learners can graduate, they need to pass an exam. To ensure that our standards are set at open labour market level, we do not use in-house examiners, but we request members from the community to take the exams. Our examiners have included hotel and bed & breakfast housekeepers and managers, cleaning contractors, Womens’ Institute sewing display judges, farmers representatives from the Department of Agriculture, landscapers, sewing and home economics specialists.

In the sewing class each learner is equipped with a quality sewing machine, and they learn sewing skills to use in their communities to earn an income. Most of our graduates are working from home, doing mending and making clothes for members of the community. Some of our graduates have been successful in getting once off contracts such as sewing pillowcases or making traditional wear or church clothes, and other graduates have found employment at sewing co-opt in Empangeni. In 2012 our sewing class entered a quilting contest, and one of our graduates won an honorable mention in the competition.

Our gardening learners gain experience at Thuthukani by setting up vegetable gardens and looking after the school’s gardens. All produce from the vegetable gardens go to the needy families we have identified at school. The gardening class also gains experience at a local B&B, Amble Inn, where they get an opportunity to work in public gardens. Once they graduate they are equipped with permaculture tunnels, set up at their homes. All the tunnels are still functioning and the learners are growing vegetables for their families and communities. Two of the gardening graduates have been placed at Tongaat Hullets on the sugarcane farms, one of the gardening graduates found a temporary position at Roy’s Mica, and is currently volunteering at our school as a groundsman. Several of the graduates have also done contract jobs.

The cleaning class learns domestic and industrial cleaning. They gain practical experience at school and at a real workplace – Amble Inn – a local B&B. Many of our graduates have found jobs in the open labour market in cleaning positions and one is working at a garage. One of our graduates has been appointed in a Departmental Permanent Position at Thuthukani Special School after following the full interview process with no allowance made for his disability. The other learners are working at home, helping their families, and are busy with job-hunting