Merryvale school celebrates 60th birthday

2016-05-25 06:00
Merryvale School for Specialised Education turns 60. Photo: SUPPLIED

Merryvale School for Specialised Education turns 60. Photo: SUPPLIED

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MERRYVALE School for Specialised Education celebrates their 60th anniversary today with an information sharing event which will be attended by officials from the Department of Education, retired Merryvale teachers, hostel staff, and principals from other schools.

The school’s choir and gumboot dancers will also perform at the event.

Merryvale’s unique history dates back to the mid-fifties when a mother of a severely intellectually disabled boy took her plight of giving her son specialised schooling to the press, as he could not attend mainstream schools like his brothers and sisters.

This caught the attention of various other parents in similar situations, resulting in a place of education sought exclusively for the purpose of educating and training severely intellectually disabled children, including those suffering from various forms of chromosomal, genetic and metabolic abnormalities.

For years the Port Elizabeth Mental Health Society carried most of the responsibilities in assisting these special children. Their efforts played the greatest role which led to the building of the Merryvale School where it stands today.

On February 6, 1956, the school was established at the St Columbus Presbyterian Church Hall in North End. Due to accommodating 30 to 40 children during 1958 to 1959, the school had to relocate.

In mid-1959, a permanent building was erected in Cotswold.

As from April 1976, the Department of National Education began subsidising Merryvale. The Dutch Reformed Church became the new sponsoring body, making a substantial contribution in establishing a new training Centre.

With construction commencing during February 1983, the buildings where Merryvale is now situated, were occupied on 28 February 1985, one of the most memorable days in the history of the school.

Today, Merryvale School for Specialized Education is an educational sanctuary for learners with severe intellectual disabilities, some of whom are also physically disabled.

The school currently has 307 learners, and as they progress, they are grouped in phases and not grades.

The individual ability of the learner is always taken into account and teachers strive to empower every learner with the necessary skills to attain their highest form of maturity possible.

In the process, the school strives to equip the learners with some form of skill in order for them to be able to enter the sheltered work force.

They also have a Practical Phase, where learners who struggle to cope with their special school curriculum, receive special attention with regard to self-care and independence matters.

In the Multi-Disabled Phase, learners with severe physical challenges (many of them are wheelchair bound) are taught.

Their therapy section boasts a physiotherapy, speech and occupational room, as well as a hydro pool.

A retired educational psychologist comes in once a week to assist with assessment and therapy aspects. A health therapist completes the medical side of the school’s therapy section, and medicine is administered as prescribed by individual doctors. The health therapist works in close co-operation with the hostel staff, and also renders assistance when a child is injured or takes ill during school hours.

Merryvale School learners participate in sporting events, some of which are inter-house athletics, swimming, netball and soccer.

Merryvale takes part in as many art and choir competitions as possible. Their choir has recently attained a gold certificate in a singing competition. The school also boasts a food garden, cooking skills class, hair training and nail care salon, woodwork section and a carwash, where learners are taught a variety of skills.

For more information about Merryvale, contact 041 367 1957.

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