Estralita School, Lydenburg, Mpumalanga
Monniek Alberts has been teaching for eight years at a school for severely intellectually disabled children. Her class consists of learners with various disability conditions. As a qualified foundation phase grade R teacher, she is well equipped to deal with learners with such limitations. The principal of the Estralita noticed her when she was conducting a pre-primary choir, and persuaded her to come teach at the special school.
“The principal said ‘you have got a special touch and you will be able to work with special needs children’. I was scared. But when I got there, I fell in love with them. And now I am a firm believer of special education and special needs learners, because they sometimes feel neglected by the system. That’s why I am in this space today: to promote awareness, especially for severely intellectually disabled children. I want to fight for them: they are also special, have needs and we need more schools like this,” says Alberts.
Teaching learners with such disabilities as autism, Down syndrome means Alberts has to adapt the classroom according to the learners’ needs, to ensure their needs are catered for and that they feel comfortable. Her learners’ progress and positive responses motivates her to continue to work hard. Alberts also teaches learners how to relate to one another when she is busy. “I love them, that’s why I get up every morning, and I wouldn’t change it now. I will never go back to mainstream, never. This is the place for me,” she says.
“It means a lot to win this category particularly, because of the exposure our school is going to get. It is wonderful; I never thought I would get this. However, I hope that someone, somewhere, is going to realise that we need more special schools for specific needs. For instance, autistic children could have their own school adapted to them, and so on.”