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                           The Johannesburg School for Blind, Low Vision and
                           Multiple Disability Children (Beka)

BEKA                                     Newsletter
 June 2007                                        No. 1/2010

Beka children drum to their own beat:                                        Fun Holiday Activity Weeks
Twice a year our school                                        about their own country        and other exciting events
holds exciting Holiday                                         and the rest of the conti-     are organised. Around
Activity Weeks within our                                      nent. This free-of-charge      March/April the theme is
longer and more-                                               community service is           Africa—My Continent (see
productive terms, but just                                     aimed at pupils aged 4 to      story below) and around
after the government                                           12 but in special circum-      September / October the
schools have closed. Beka                                      stances older pupils will      theme is South African
provides five more weeks                                       be considered.                 Heritage. The aim of these
teaching a year than other                                                                    weeks is to educate the
                                                               Activities such as touch-
schools. Any blind and                                                                        children about African
                                                               ing animals, arts and
low vision children are                                                                       countries and their differ-
                                                               craft projects, drumming
invited to apply for a cov- Joseph (15) can’t see but                                         ent cultures, and the
                            he certainly can hear! He         sessions, visits to the Na-
eted place on the interac-                                                                    beauty of their own land.
                            really enjoys drumming.           tional Children’s Theatre
tive learning sessions

‘Africa - my Continent’ - Zambian teaches about Zambia
 In April Beka celebrated       the National Children's
 ‘Africa– My Continent’.        Theatre was organised.
 During this fun week, each     The children were excited
 day was dedicated to an        to watch or listen to the
 African country, so there’s    play “A Secret Garden” by
 lots more countries left for   Frances Hodgson Burnett.
 2010 and 2011’s weeks.         They tried their own play
                                acting once they returned
 On Monday the pupils
                                to school.
 learned about Zambia.
 They explored a tactile        Wednesday was dedicated
                                                                Mabontle (9) and Obvious (6) touch a live crocodile
 map of the country, were       to the country Tanzania.
                                                              and history of the Democ-      Khanye. In the afternoon
 given an exciting lesson       The children learned
                                                              ratic Republic of Congo,       the children enjoyed Afri-
 about Zambia’s history         about Tanzania's wildlife,
                                                              prepared by senior primary     can music with Catherine
 from Zambian volunteer         helped with materials from
                                                              teacher Mai Claude Tem.        Ma. The week was a great
 Opposite Malumbe, col-         sister charity Children of
                                                              His research came to life      success -thanks to the
 oured the flag of the coun-    Fire. In 2007, burned teen-
                                                              when Edu-Zoo arrived with      hard work of junior pri-
 try and modelled the na-       agers climbed Kilimanjaro
                                                              snakes, rabbits, a baby        mary teacher Oztie Mpala,
 tional bird out of play        and they lent their books
                                                              crocodile and other            the principal Mortain Dube
 dough. The children were       to the younger children.
                                                              animals to touch.              and the many resources
 given a demonstration of       Our long term friends
                                                                                             provided by the office.
 how to make beaded ani-        Drums and Rhythm              On Friday, the children
 mals and then were en-         arrived with a range of       learned about Ghana and        A special thanks to local
 couraged to work with          percussion instruments        were greatly honoured with     shops that helped and
 beads and make beaded          and all the children beat     a visit from the Acting High   short term volunteer Zim-
 necklaces for themselves       out a joyful sound.           Commissioner for Ghana.        babwean Pardon Mawowa.
 and their friends.                                           He was presented with a        The next week is from 29
                                On Thursday the children
                                                              painted flag by Katrina        March to 1 April 2010.
 On Tuesday an outing to        learned about the economy

Johannesburg School for Blind, Low Vision and Multiple Disability Children—Newsletter 2009-2010 page 1
Dicing potatoes for Austrian Potato Goulash, a favourite .....
During 2009 novice teacher    Marita Irvine and Louise                                       ham). One much-enjoyed
Barbara Lechner from Aus-     Barnes were stunning too.                                      dish was Austrian Potato
tria started to cook Satur-   Barbara followed in these                                      Goulash.
day night supper with those   illustrious footsteps by also
                                                                                             Here is the recipe:
children resident at week-    involving children in the
ends. While cookery has       meal preparation. The chil-                                    Finely cut some onions and
been part of the syllabus     dren discovered that a meal                                    fry them gently in cooking
since 2003, Barbara wanted    they cooked themselves,                                        oil, until they are soft. Add
to share her national cui-    tasted even better than one                                    some flour, then add a
sine with the kids.           made for them.                                                 small tin of tomato puree,
                                                                                             paprika powder and a lot of
The cookery tradition began   Sizwe (9) soon gained the
                                                                                             water. Add some beef or
with Julia Hill of Designer   title “The Singing Chef” and    Sizwe has a rugby player’s     vegetable stock cubes.
Faire. While no one quite     mastered peeling and dicing     hearty appetite
matched Julia’s skills,       onions; Seiso (5) loved peel-                                  Peel and dice potatoes, then
                                                              wanese students once           add them to the “soup”.
                              ing potatoes and Doreen
                                                              cooked a mouth-watering        Leave the Goulash cooking
                              (12) didn’t object too much
                                                              Chinese meal so the chil-      on the stove until the
                              to washing the dishes after
                                                              dren were already curious      potatoes are soft.
                              supper. Tapera (4) and
                                                              about new flavours. Recipe
                              Thapelo (3) were good food-                                    In the meantime cut good
                                                              variations were necessitated
                              borrowers, quickly learning                                    quality “Vienna” sausages
                                                              when some ingredients
                              what tasted good raw and                                       into chunks and add them
                                                              were hard to find. They
                              what did not. New experi-                                      to the Goulash when the
                                                              cooked meals like Mexican
                              ences like when they first                                     potatoes are soft. Let the
                                                              Chilli Con Carne, Italian
                              cracked an egg and saw                                         Goulash cook for another
                                                              pasta and also Austrian
                              what was inside, were                                          five minutes, then serve it
                              memorable. Dr Mick Mui-                                        with a slice of thick fresh
                              anga and two visiting Tai-      (macaroni and cheese with
                                                                                             bread. Enjoy !
Karabo: wary of Goulash

Tshepi—keeps us on our toes

Tshepisang Kobeli, age 7,     ple ‘dijo’ or ‘eat Tshepi’
was born with a visual im-    when she is hungry). Tshepi
pairment and lack of oxy-     can see light and recognise
gen (birth asphyxia).         objects that are fairly close
                              to her. She is a very active
                              child and keeps the teach-
                              ers on their toes. Her par-
                              ents were overjoyed at her
                              progress and how much
                              calmer she became without
                              the use of any medicine.
Tshepi is camera-shy
                              She learned to control her
                              tantrums. Tshepi likes all
She also suffered a bilat-
                              kinds of music from radio,
eral occipital stroke. As a
                              instruments or toys. She
result, her motor and
                              has made very good pro-
speech milestones are de-
                              gress since she arrived but
layed. She was referred to
                              cannot feed herself prop-
Beka in January 2009.
                              erly, still wears nappies and
Tshepi learned in the first
                              has concentration issues.
few months at Beka to ex-
                              Her parents urgently need
press her needs (for exam-                                  Thapelo (3) Feleng (8) Tapera (4) and teacher Mortain in group
                              transport help.               including Simamkele and Sizwe as well.
Johannesburg School for Blind, Low Vision and Multiple Disability Children—Newsletter 2009-2010 page 2
Joseph struck by HIV-induced menigitus, went blind at 13
Joseph, age 15, turned           so that he could attend         school and has found a lot     Before he turned blind, Jo-
blind at 13 due to meningi-      school regularly; his           of new friends. He says that   seph wanted to become a
tis caused by HIV-Aids. He       mother’s employer was           he was very bored when he      soldier but now he plans to
spent four months in hospi-      sadly unsympathetic. In the     turned blind and he            become a musician. He
tal and started attending        beginning Joseph was still      thought he would never go      says it was hard in the be-
Beka in February 2009.           very weak because of his        to school again. He has        ginning to learn to read and
Joseph was a day pupil and       illness, but as his strength    learned a lot about himself    write in Braille, but he can
then became a weekly             improved he could partici-      since he started attending     read all the Braille books at
boarder. While kind volun-       pate actively in all lessons.   Beka and enjoys music and      school. He needs his ARVs
teers made a transport plan      Joseph is very happy at         swimming lessons most.         marked in Braille now.

Make (mah-kay) makes tremendous academic improvement
Make is a nine-year-old girlready for formal learning.           could identify the alphabet    cation has improved and
who has been struggling     She was transferred to Hla-          letters from A to M and        she can now talk to other
with her academic achieve-  bangane Primary school in            numbers from 1 to 13. She      children freely, sharing
ment. Her parents believe   Meadowlands. Make did not            could say polite words like    jokes in English.
that her bad health during  make progress at this                ‘please’ and ‘thank you’
                                                                                                Make is happy and she
her infancy has contributed school and arrived at Beka           when talking to others. To
                                                                                                socialises with almost eve-
to her academic problems.   with very few skills. She            date tremendous progress
                                                                                                ryone at school, including
When she was very young     could not communicate                has been made in almost all
                                                                                                the teachers. She is inquisi-
she suffered from severe fits
                            with the other children and          the subjects. Make can now
                                                                                                tive and wants to learn
and was admitted to hospi-  did not want to play with            count from 0 to 50, making
                                                                                                more from everyone. The
tal several times.          them. The Beka teachers              few mistakes. She works
                                                                                                teachers are confident that
                            designed an individualised           very well with her addition
When she was five years old                                                                     Make can become a capable
                            educational programme for            and simple subtraction us-
she started Grade One at                                                                        child who can prosper in
                            her and surprisingly,                ing different counting meth-
Thobeka Lower Primary                                                                           life, especially if her parents
                            within two weeks Make                ods. Her English communi-
school but she was not                                                                          support her equally.

Shredded paper is tactile learning and provides lots of fun!
                                 they want. Throwing shred-      in water, seeing which ob-     level. Teachers also take
                                 ded paper all over their        ject sinks, tasting and        children on nature walks at
                                 classroom assistant and         smelling a variety of safe     Delta Park or Zoo Lake to
                                 rolling in the shavings was     everyday materials. It’s ma-   find feathers, leaves and
                                                                 terial science at primary      seed pods for art.

Tshepi discovers shredded
paper feels almost slippery

The main aim of art for
blind and low vision chil-
dren, with or without multi-
ple disabilities, is for the
children to experience dif-
ferent materials, and not to
always have an end prod-
                                 Tapera loves art lessons
uct. The pupils use all
their senses: they hear the      great fun and made a good
rustle of paper and its tickle   photo shoot! Since 2003 we
on their skin. They can          have explored materials
even taste and smell it if       with pupils, floating objects Thapelo and Tapera have fun with the teacher

Johannesburg School for Blind, Low Vision and Multiple Disability Children—Newsletter 2009-2010 page 3
French flair and unusual hair a hit with children
Charlène Darblade (20)           have their own character -                                   Volunteering
from Bordeaux, France,           funny, energetic, very
                                                                                              New volunteers are welcome
volunteered for three            friendly and naughty, just
                                                                                              if they first provide a curricu-
months at Beka. She ini-         like all other kids. The                                     lum vitae with contactable
tially translated in the sis-    school is small so I can in-                                 references.
ter charity’s offices but        teract with every child. And                                 They must guarantee to be
could not keep pace with         the atmosphere is warm                                       regular and to keep their
the work expected there.         and friendly.”                                               commitments.
She was better occupied                                                                       As a sign of good faith, they
                              Famous for her often un-
playing with children.                                                                        donate R50. A police clear-
                              usual hairstyles, she helped
At Beka she took an inter-    in the life skills class, espe-                                 ance check may be required.
                                                                                              Children are upset at people
est in working with children cially with Dorah Mokoena,
                                                                                              with whom they bond, who
with disabilities. “The chil- and typed letters and                                           stop coming for no reason.
dren are amazing! They all reports for teachers.
                                                                Charlene, Sizwe, Feleng

 Umfundo Thuto even in the spinach leaves of the garden
The garden is a favourite        sentences and reports          vegetables. They learn that   the seedlings. The older
places in the school for the     about what they have           the garden is a good source   children even calculate the
children. It is divided into     learned.                       of nutritious food as they    number of plants they will
three vegetable beds. A                                         observe the harvesting of     put in each bed. This puts
number of lessons are                                           some vegetables which are     their mathematics skills to
conducted in and around                                         then brought to the kitchen   good use.
the garden. The garden can                                      for their next meal.
be used in all learning
                                                                3.) Numeracy:
areas such as:
                                                          The children measure the
1.) English language:
                                                          size of the vegetable beds as
The children communicate     Tshepi waters the garden they prepare them. They
in English as they work in                                record the date of planting
                             2.) Life Skills:
the garden. They ask                                      and how long they must
questions and they learn     The children learn to        wait for germination. They
the names of the vegetables maintain the garden by        measure the spaces for the          Tapera counts how many
they plant. They write short cultivating and watering the plants as they transplant           spinach plants there are

Braille training for teachers, volunteers and child carers
                                 part of on-going teacher
                                 education. Tracy is blind
                                 herself and can answer all
                                 the teachers' questions.
                                 Braille contractions were
                                 revised and typing Braille
                                 sentences was practiced.
                                 Beka staff are up-to-date
Teachers (rear) in training      with all the changes as
All the teachers at Beka are     specified in the Unified
Braille literate, thanks to      Braille code.
courses run by Tracy Smith
                                 Every teacher wrote an
of Blind South Africa, an
                                 examination in Braille
organisation that trains
                                 competency at the end of
users in Braille. Thursday
                                 the 2009. Even the
afternoon is set aside for
                                 housekeeper knows Braille.
Braille in-service training as                                   Mabontle loves reading Braille with her fingers

Johannesburg School for Blind, Low Vision and Multiple Disability Children—Newsletter 2009-2010 page 4
Geerlande Homburg returned to help with mobility
Beka has been unable to         children for mobility                                            the mobility walks the
secure the services of a        training. Children are taken                                     children are encouraged to
qualified mobility trainer as   through orientation of the                                       engage in a a wide range of
there is a shortage of such     immediate environment at                                         conversations.
trainers and a shortage of      the school. Activities
                                                                                                 They talk about physical
money. Fortunately              include sighted guiding
                                                                                                 features as they walk past
Geerlande Homburg from          techniques, walking in and
                                                                                                 different buildings.
Bartimeus School in the         out of the school building,
Netherlands took time to        negotiating steps and                                            They talk about trees and
                                                                  First feel, then step          flowers around them and
refresh the knowlege of our     identifying all the rooms
existing staff when she         and places in the school.    telephones. They also learn         they talk to people they
visited in 2009. Geerlande                                   road crossing techniques,           meet on the way. They also
                                For older children, their
worked at Beka in 2006                                       such as listening for any           learn how to handle and
                                training includes finding
and has supplied us with                                     vehicle sound from the              use the white cane to their
                                directions to useful places
some canes. The teachers                                     lefthand-side and the               advantage. Now we just
                                outside the school such as
take turns to go out with                                    righthand-side and then             need to teach the cars to
                                the shops or public
the blind and low vision                                     crossing the road. During           behave!

Even blind toddlers can start Orientation and Mobility
Movement is a building          bility training (O & M) helps   tinuing on into adulthood        cialists who worked with
block for learning. As a        a blind or visually impaired    as the individual learns         adults and school-going
child explores his world and    child know where she is in      skills that allow her to navi-   children.
has physical contact with it,   space and where she wants       gate her world efficiently,
                                                                                                 In the 1980s the O & M
learning takes place. Chil-     to go (orientation). It also    effectively, and safely. For-
                                                                                                 field recognised the benefit
dren with visual impair-        helps her to plan to get        mal O & M training began
                                                                                                 of providing services to pre-
ments typically need en-        where she wants to go           after World War II when
                                                                                                 school children. Today,
couragement to explore          (mobility).                     techniques were developed
                                                                                                 orientation and mobility
their surroundings. To                                          to help veterans who had
                                O & M skills should be de-                                       specialists have even devel-
them the world may be a                                         been blinded. In the 1960s
                                veloped in infancy starting                                      oped methods to help in-
startling and unpredictable                                     universities started training
                                with basic body awareness                                        fants and toddlers to find
place. Orientation and Mo-                                      programmes for O & M spe-
                                and movement, and con-                                           their way around.

When planning an O & M programme for children, the focus of training should include such things as:
    •      sensory awareness: gaining information about the world through hearing, smell, touch and feel
    •      spatial concepts: realising that objects exist even if not heard or felt, and understanding the relationships
           which exist between objects in the environment
    •      searching skills: locating items or places efficiently
    •      independent movement: which includes crawling, rolling and walking
    •      sighted guide: using another person to aid in travel
    •      protective techniques: specific skills which provide added protection in unfamiliar areas
    •      cane skills: use of various cane techniques to clear one's path or to locate objects along the way

                                    Blindness myths
                                    It is not true that…
                                    ⇒      All blind people love music
                                    ⇒      All blind people have good hearing
                                    ⇒      All blind people have a good memory
                                    ⇒      All blind people have no sight
                                                                                            Nhlanhla is a happy child
Thapelo and Tapera take a nap

Johannesburg School for Blind, Low Vision and Multiple Disability Children—Newsletter 2009-2010 page 5
Mama Esther—Cook, cleaner, childcare worker
Esther is called Mama             make their own beds and to      those who have hospital
Esther out of politeness for      pick up their clothes from      visits. She cooks lunch and
her age and because of her        the floor. So she helps pu-     sometimes supper for the
various duties she does at        pils to learn neatness and      children. Sometimes she
school. Coming under the          good hygiene. She also          asks the older pupils to
supervision of main house-        helps those who are blind,      help wash dishes, thus en-
keeper Abegail Ximba, she         like Obvious and Nhlanhla       suring that they learn some
acts as a mother in this          to tidy up after themselves,    daily living skills
school, because she assists       in so doing improving their
                                                                  Esther helps teachers dur-
almost everybody.                 life skills and teaching them
                                                                  ing lesson times to accom-
                                  to be independent.
Esther listens to pupils’                                         pany a child to the bath-
problems and acts accord-         Esther washes blankets,         room. She helps to feed
ingly. Her duties include:        sheets and all the clothes      multiple disabled children if
sweeping the school prem-         for the children. She can       they don’t have eating          Esther cheerfully at work
ises, and putting all the         often be seen walking very      prosthesis.                     in the kitchen
litter into the bins; restoring   fast from room to room as
                                                                  All the visitors who come to    Ester loves the children at
order to the furniture and        she cleans and tidies.
                                                                  Beka are given a warm           the school, and they love
desks so that each morning
                                  All the children like Mama      welcome by Esther.              her . To keep them safe, we
everything is spick and
                                  Esther because she cooks                                        sent her on a St John Am-
span; cleaning and tidying                                        She keeps an eye out for
                                  them delicious meals using                                      bulance First Aid course
the bedrooms. She en-                                             strangers at the school gate
                                  a variety of food. She makes                                    and, like all the teachers,
courages older pupils like                                        and makes sure that the
                                  breakfast for them, and                                         she passed it well.
Doreen and Katrina to                                             gate is securely locked.
                                  prepares sandwiches for
Oztie helps Obvious with his
Braille lessons
                                          Our unique multi-lingual multi-talented staff
                                        Mai Claude Tem initially came to      Ask Oztie Mpala and Mortain Dube
                                        Beka as an occasional volunteer.      about their home language and they
                                        While he is a trained high school     might at first tell you that they are
                                        teacher, he has adapted well to       Ndebele speakers. Well, they can
                                        teaching senior primary pupils.       speak Ndebele and also a little Shona,
                                                                              and some Zulu and a smattering of
                                        He learned Braille from scratch and
                                                                              Sotho. But really their language is
                                        he has shared his many other skills.
                                                                              Kalanga. This unique tribe has its
                                        Mai Claude has translated for the
                                                                              roots partly in Zimbabwe and partly in
                                        courts, especially for refugee chil-
                                        dren from Francophone Africa.
                                                                              All these linguistic skills are great for
                                        He has learned counseling with the
                                                                              “Africa my Continent” weeks because
                                        Teddy Bear Clinic.
                                                                              we have a microcosm of southern Af-
                                        And he has helped with a prelimi-     rica in one school… and over the
                                        nary investigation for our sister     years have had teachers, pupils and
                                        charity, of the medical facilities in volunteers from Tunisia, the DRC,
                                        Cameroon, his home country.           Mozambique and even further afield.
                                        At weekends he helps to run a hair
                                        salon in Yeoville but we haven't yet
                                        persuaded him to give us all free
                                        hair styles.
                                        In addition to preparing lots of les-
                                        sons for older pupils, he runs a
      Maké loves school
                                        once-a-week French language class
                                        for interested adults at Beka and at
                                        ChiFi.                                     Mai Claude Tem at Beka

Johannesburg School for Blind, Low Vision and Multiple Disability Children—Newsletter 2009-2010 page 6
                                           Pearls and Pimples
    Pearls to:                                                 Pimples to:
    ♦      Dr Kerry Alberto for fundraising                    ♦     Passers-by who continuously give sweets to
                                                                     the children despite the sign asking them not
    ♦      Crawford Prep, Lonehill, for fundraising and              to do so.
           Debbie Tarrant for encouraging them.
                                                               ♦     Neighbours with the dangerous collapsing wall
    ♦      Eileen Fisher for teaching piano to Katrina               that they won’t fix and plants that they won’t
           and Sizwe last year.                                      trim.
    ♦      Helen and Lee for extra reading classes             ♦     South African Council of Educators for being
    ♦      Kate for Friday supper and Jarryd for                     so slow in processing teachers’ documentation
           alternating Friday suppers                          ♦     Neotel and contractors for not warning us that
    ♦      Jakki Bates for Sunday evening cooking                    they were going to excavate the pavement and
                                                                     leaving dangerous open and very muddy
    ♦      Lindiwe Ngwenya for battling for registration             trenches for weeks.

                                                   Thanks to:
Trustees Margaret and Allan Hirsch, Amelia Tandy, Dr Helene van Rhyn, Cathy Donaldson, Dr Marietjie Richter, Dr
Kerry Alberto, Prakash Naidoo, Peter Harris, Lisa Mulley and Bronwen Jones
Craig Pretorius of Urban Terrain for helping with school planning issues
Children of Fire Trust for lending us so much administrative help.
DisChem Foundation for funding our School Principal
Melissa Banks, Moynene and friends for cooking supper on Wednesdays
Catherine Ma for Kindermusik lessons                       Marlene Thomas for swimming lessons last year
Michelle Harten for doing Aromatherapy last year           Vivienne Stokes for cakes once in a while
Tarryn Leslie for supervising children some weekends
Richard Walls for transporting children who wish to attend church on Sundays
Bernie Fillis of Bee Sting Tours for transport help and yoghurt
                                                                               The future depends on what we do in
Louis Rutstein of GT Trading for advice on furniture repairs                   the present. Mahatma Gandhi

Founder on call, every day.
It is so hard running a school with no money from government at all, and most parents unable or unwilling to
pay fees. It is also hard to run a school where one is on call every day and every hour of the day.
While our founder Bronwen Jones is based at the Children of Fire site, she picks up the slack whenever any-
one is sick, when a parent doesn’t collect their child, when a pupil has an unscheduled trip to hospital.
A 24/7 “Mama” to all the kids, she makes a great working team with Principal Mortain Dube, checking and
double-checking the children’s academic progress, their medical needs, their social circumstances.
Many evenings their work continues until late, either face-to-face or phone and SMS exchange of information
about what needs to be done the next day.
New pupils’ parents ask for meetings at weekends and the Founder is always available for them. Only by being
available so constantly, has the school achieved its great standard of schooling and overall child care. There
are not enough words to thank her for keeping the school afloat, unsalaried, and against all the odds.

                                                                                                We see your child’s
Donations can be made to:                        Phone: 011 726 6529                                potential.

JHB School Blind, Low Vision                       Fax: 011 482 4258
First National Bank, Melville         
Branch code: 25 65 05
Acc.-no.: 620 502 081 59                                           Editing: Moira Golden

Johannesburg School for Blind, Low Vision and Multiple Disability Children—Newsletter 2009-2010 page 7

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