More than just a teacher

2010-05-12 00:00

AFZAL Hoosen says that his life is dedicated to helping pupils with special­ needs and his school Unlimited­ Learning Different Abled (ULD) bears testimony to this.

“We work with intellectually challenged pupils and those with a lower IQ level,” he told The Witness recently .

But he said that their teaching does not end with the ABC. They also help to groom the pupils, some of whom may be deficient in social and adaptive functioning areas such as communication and social behaviour patterns, so that they are able to get on better in society.

“At the moment we are the only organisation­ in the country that caters­ for a maximum of 15 pupils. We are big on individual teaching and attention, which is why some local schools often refer parents to us. We try to take a holistic approach to education­. Pupils might need transport and accommodation or parents might need assistance with getting grants, medication and food. We try and look at those branches of education because without doing this, education­ as a core won’t work.”

Since opening the doors in 2008 Hoosen said that they have had many success stories.

“I have a 16-year-old pupil who had a reading disability. He was in mainstream schooling in one of the local schools, but he was not doing well. Because we were able to give him individual attention, he is at a different level now. He used to come to us on Saturdays, and it was really just a matter of getting his phonics right.”

Hoosen said that while some parents­ pay fees, the majority don’t and the school, as a non-profit organisation, relies on private donations, while working towards getting a government­ subsidy.

“I think that what we have been able to achieve is that children whose parents have been told that they will never be able to read or write are doing it. I think one great story that stands out is that of a young boy who repeated Grade R three times. His mum, a high school teacher, recently came in with tears in her eyes because her son now has a grasp of words.”

Hoosen believes that this is possible because they work on a controlled syllabus­ where pupils are allowed to work at their own pace so that if they are unable to complete a certain level in 12 months, they do it in 18 or 24 months, based on the teacher’s discretion­.

“Many times I feel the parents’ frustrations­ about the lack of social services for special needs children. But I think the biggest achievement would be accepting that we have people­ who are physically or mentally challenged, and making sure that these children are not marginalised.

“When we can’t communicate verbally or physically we miss part of what makes one human.”

“We are also trying to teach our pupils­ correct manners, cleanliness and normal human behaviour. We are approaching it on the basis of creating independent individuals so that even if they don’t go to matric, they are able to get a job or be integrated into society­.”

Part of their curriculum offers an Islamic syllabus for children of Islamic­ faith.

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