Curative Education at Hermanus Camphill
South Africa: Since 1952 Hermanus Camphill is an independent residential and day school for children and young people with special needs, situated in the beautiful Hemel en Aarde Valley near Hermanus. The School is part of the international Camphill Movement and aims to create and maintain a therapeutic community, in which children and young adults with special needs can live, learn and work with others in healthy social relationships based on mutual care and respect. Currently around 50 students attend the School out of which 20 are day learners, coming from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Apart form the school lessons and various therapies; Camphill Hermanus also provides three meals per day to its students.
Each school week begins on Monday with the School Assembly. The whole school is gathered: all students, the teachers and the volunteers. They come together in order to hear some music, to sing and to hear about a particular theme. The birthdays of the week are announced, so the whole community can prepare for these special events.
After beginning the week with this ritual, the students aged 6-16 attend main lesson, which follows the guidelines of the Waldorf curriculum. Later on, the more practical oriented lessons follow, often requiring a one on one mentoring. Hereby the emphasis lies on painting, drawing, music and drama. Older students (aged 16-21) participate in the Upper School Program where focus is on life skills and work activities (pottery, woodwork, land work, leather work, gardening) although they still attend school three mornings a week. By doing so, they can gain experience in various hand crafting areas and thus the program provides a good transition into a working environment.
Co-workers and residential students live in 'extended families' in three house communities. The School's large vegetable garden provides the houses and the neighbouring Camphill Farm Community with bio-dynamically produced vegetables. Many residents with special needs from the Farm work in the garden, which also provides outdoor work opportunities for the Upper School students as part of their program. The School and the neighbouring Camphill Farm Community share a community hall, a library, tuck shop and a therapy centre, all located on the Farm.
As the unemployment figure in the region adds up to 40% and the percentage of HIV-infections accounts 20%, many of the children come from disadvantaged backgrounds and their families are not able to cover the cost of their child's education. Thus, the school fee of ZAR 3.200 (ZAR 1.540 for day learners) does not fully cover the schools regular expenses. As a result, many students rely on educational sponsorships. The school collects donations in a trust fund, which has been installed for this reason only.
The Ministry for Social Affairs of Western Cape has rewarded the initiative for its dedicated work and the integration of children and youngsters with disabilities.