Thuthukani Special School

Thuthukani Special School

To empower the children of Zululand who have intellectual disability to function as active, participating members of local communities.

To uplift the quality of life of the children of Zululand who have intellectual disability by means of:

  • Maintaining an appropriately equipped and professionally staffed learning environment.
  • Meeting their physical, emotional and therapeutic needs.
  • Endowing them with a sense of self-worth and the ability to develop self-sufficiency to their maximum potential.
  • Teaching them the love of God, as well as academic, technical, recreational and artistic skills.
  • Providing vocational training and workplace experience.
  • Offering sheltered employment.
  • Educating leaders of local commerce and industry in the plight of the disabled and their right to a place in the job market.

Adapted Teaching

During 1996 to 1999, Mrs Combrinck, (then an occupational therapist on staff at the school, currently the Principal of the school) realised that the learners with intellectual disability in the school were unable to achieve the requirements set by the national curriculum in South Africa. She researched the full curriculum, looking at all the aspects covered, as well as the realistic abilities and needs of the learners at Thuthukani.

She interviewed parents and caregivers of learners with intellectual disabilities, and looked at schools that catered for learners with intellectual disabilities.

She researched what was being done internationally in the education of learners with intellectual disability. Based on this, she in collaboration with local IT Specialist Mr Thys van der Merwe developed and designed the CLASSIC (Computerised Learners Assessment Syllabi System for the Intellectually Challenged)– an Outcomes Based Educational Tool for the Intellectually Disabled. The CLASSIC model was based on the GÜtenburg model for assessment of children with Down syndrome that was developed in the 1960’s.

The full system includes a computer program that is used to track the progress of each learner, and the program produces school report cards that can be printed in the child’s home language and sent home with the learners. The program can also be used without computer support in more rural areas.

This system has been in use at Thuthukani since 2000, and it has also been distributed to 30 other schools by the Natal Lottery Fund. The CLASSIC meets the requirement of White Paper 6 – to make inclusive schooling available to all learners. By adapting the curriculum, and using the CLASSIC as the tool to do this, learners with Intellectual Disability benefit from quality, realistic, adapted education based on the NCS and CAPS.

The CLASSIC aims to guide learners with intellectual disability to independence. By using the CLASSIC, the educator has a structured goal directed tool to use in the classroom. In using the CLASSIC as teaching tool, the educator is guided to do continuous assessment and each learner’s progress is plotted as and when he achieves and remembers a task.

Formal and Informal assessment is used, as many of the tasks required from the learner relate to his social and functional ability, over and above academic, paper and pen tasks. Even if the learner does not achieve all the outcomes in the program – i.e. total independence in all aspects of life, his parents, educators and future employers will have a clear knowledge of the learner’s functional ability when he completes his school career.

CLASSIC has been developed to suit South-African conditions. It is non-discriminating in terms of culture, gender, socio-economic status, geographical area or disability.

Schools for learners with intellectual disability in KZN who are using the CLASSIC have remained in touch with Thuthukani, and if required, ongoing training is offered at no charge. Some schools in other provinces have also purchased the CLASSIC, and are using the program with great success.

The CLASSIC Program
At Thuthukani Special School, the CLASSIC forms the core of our learning and teaching program.
Learners from age 6 (school going age) to age 12 follow the Foundation Phase of the CLASSIC. Learners from age 13 to age 15, follow the Intermediate Phase. From age 16 to 18 learners are placed in the Senior Phase.
The CLASSIC is being updated to accommodate the Pre-Foundation and Pre-Vocational Phases.

Thuthukani Special School’s classes are divided into the three phases described by the CLASSIC and within the phases the classes are graded to keep learners with similar functional abilities and levels of achievement together. Each learner is individually assessed on an on-going basis to measure his achievements and areas of developmental need. Learners can move between classes as their abilities are assessed and seen to change and progress.

Each phase of the CLASSIC is divided into the following learning areas: Self Help, Functional Academics, Socialisation, and Occupation.

Teaching Phases

Contact Details and Location

Postal: PO Box 1121, Empangeni, 3880, South Africa
Location: Old Mtuba Road, Dover Farm (Next to Dover School), Empangeni
Type of Organisation: School for Learners with Intellectual Disability
Organisation Registration No: EMIS: 283790
NPO: 023-039-NPO
PBO: 930029292Tel: 035 792 0080 / 082 611 6369
Fax: 035 792 0100

Principal: Marthie Combrinck
Founder: Jo James
Governing Body Chairperson: Charlotte Van Vuuren
PRO: Tanya Girvin