A woman who has been running a school for disabled children this week officially opened the doors to their new building in Mfuleni.
Thandeka Mafila had no qualifications when she found her passion and opened Lonwabo Special Care Centre at her home 16 years ago.
“In October that year, I had two kids, and by December there were seven and I saw the need for a school for children with special needs,” says Thandeka.
“I knew that God wanted me to do something about that and I used my house.
“My only child who was still at home (the others were married) would sleep on the floor because I had turned my place into a school and my husband was also part of this.
“I had to go and study teaching courses, feeding courses and learn about taking care of special needs children.”
Thandeka would also use her own car to transport the kids.
“I’d pick up some and drop them off at the school and then go back and get others.
“ All this happened because I enjoyed what I did.”
She named the school Lonwabo, which means absolute joy.
It’s the only school of its kind in the area and she has kids from Wesbank, Eerste River, Delft and Khayelitsha, while the fees are only R750 a month.
“I wanted the children to know they could come and feel joy at the school.
“They never seemed happy watching other children go to school while they were at home and now they are really happy.”
Thandeka worked with Ian Corbett of Starting Chance since 2015.
Ian says: “It was not easy. We had the sponsors but we didn’t have land and because of the nature of the school, we found there would be more costs to the building.
“But we eventually opened the school on Tuesday.”
The new building boasts bigger classrooms and a playground and will have a clinic nearby.
It is big enough for 40 learners, up to 18-years-old.
Eerste River mom Wendy Olifant says her foster child, Renaldo October, enrolled at the school when he was two years old.
“He’s now 13-years-old and has developed well, and learned a lot.
“I didn’t know about the school until my daughter told me about it so I thought I should bring him and we are happy that the children have more space.”