Nokuthemba Gumede is the supervisor for Sonke Care Centre for the Disabled at KwaNdengezi Ward 12 in KwaZulu-Natal. Sonke Care Centre was started on 28 April 1997 by the late Mrs. Rose Gumede. The school caters for children living with varying degrees of mental and/or physical disabilities from the age of 3 to 21 years (both boys and girls). There are five staff members who are trained in the new NCF curriculum and work relentlessly to care for and stimulate their pupils. They provide education, and training and do outdoor play and gardening. Sonke is registered with the Department of Social Development NPO number006-924.
Nokuthemba is a strong woman who enjoys working with children with special needs. “I had a brother who passed away at the age of 36 years. He was a loving and caring person. His life changed dramatically after he had an accident and became disabled. My mom left work to look after him full time and take him to his hospital visits. She then decided to open a Centre for disabled children so that she could keep a very close eye on him as well as help others in the community with the same challenges. At first, a few community members brought their children to the centre and then it started to grow,” explains Nokuthemba.
“My mom, the founder, passed away after a very long illness and I took over because I also have a passion, love and care for people with special needs. I have studied HIV and Aids, ECD Service against NQF 5, How to Manage a small-scale ECD facility, Aftercare support Programme and Pre-Grade R Curriculum Training. I run the school according to these guidelines along with the support and assistance from the parents and other community members.’’
Sonke provides their pupils with a balanced, hot meal every school day. Their operating hours are from Monday to Friday 07:00 to 14:00. They are closed during school holidays and public holidays.
“For many people taking care of the mentally and physically disabled is difficult but I find if you spend time understanding their needs, it is easy to provide them with the love and care they require to thrive,” concludes Nokuthemba.