Nothing to do with a rabbit hole
By Karen Marx
Creston College in KwaZulu-Natal is a school that ranges from Grade 000 to Grade 12.
It’s also home to Wonderland Special Needs School, a school for physically and mentally challenged children who have conditions such as autism spectrum, Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy. Housed in a wooden wendy house facing the playground of the Pre-Primary school, cheerfully painted and adorned with children’s artwork, Wonderland is a warm, caring environment where special teaching and learning takes place.
Tutton saw the need for a special school on the South Coast Wonderland is managed and owned by Angie Tutton, who began her extensive teaching career in Zimbabwe as a nursery school teacher, following in the footsteps of her mother. She taught at Margate Pre-school and, after relocating to Paddock, started up a nursery school there. However, the necessity for a special needs school on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal became evident to Tutton. Shortly after Creston opened its gates, she wrote to all the schools on the South Coast from Hibberdene to Port Edward, asking them if they would consider a special needs school on their premises, and Creston College replied positively. The school opened with four learners in 2001.
Each day special
Today, 14 mentally or physically challenged learners attend Wonderland. Mondays are literature days, on which the ‘sound’ of the week is introduced. Tuesdays and Thursdays are Maths days, while on Wednesdays, pupils concentrate on reading. On Fridays, pupils write a spelling test and either visit the tuck shop or enjoy a baking day. Every week, Wonderland organises outdoor activities like speech therapy, gym and pottery, and sports such as swimming, hockey or soccer.
A number of the children come from the local orphanage. Ultimately, the aim of Wonderland is to mainstream some learners and to work toward social acceptance of the disabled pupils. The school follows home-schooling principles with a significant success rate, as the children progress at their own pace. Every day is a new experience for the children, for Tutton and her helpers. The greatest lesson that she has learned is patience, and the acceptance of parents and society who believe that nothing can be done for their children. Wonderland has proved them wrong!
Benefits of the partnership
How does this all benefit Creston College? The interaction of Pre-Primary and Junior Primary children with the children from Wonderland is essential to achieve an overall and holistic view of education encompassing all of society.
The partnership between Creston and Wonderland helps bridge the gap between mainstream learners and learners with special needs, as well as building the character of each potential leader in our school. The exchange of talent, materials and educational resources benefits all the children and the educators in the Junior Phases. The mainstream students learn tolerance, compassion, patience and an appreciation for their own health and abilities, as well as the confidence to look mentally or physically challenged people in the eye and enjoy a conversation with them.
Vision for the future
The school, Wonderland and the community as a whole share a common vision and a long-term commitment. The partnership will lead to the expansion of Wonderland and the fulfilment of the needs of all learners on the South Coast.
Tutton’s ambition for the future is to be able to increase the size of Wonderland to accommodate high school learners, teaching them life skills for their adult lives.
Karen Marx is a Grade 5 teacher at Creston College.
Category: Spring 2011