Thursday 14 March 2013

Special Needs in Main stream schooling in South Africa

I've spent the WHOLE morning googling, I've spent many mornings googling and phoning schools and tweeting and asking and requesting help for my son's education is South Africa.

He is Dyslexic. His school (private) are unable to support him, they even disreguarded his UK assesment forcing us to pay to another one done and guess what? It's the same assessment. They now request we have a new assessment done as the IEB (Independent Education Board) need evidence less than 3 months old.....Do they know something I don't? Has there been a cure since then?

Our most sensible option is to return to the UK. this morning I was chatting to another expat who did just that for their childrens education, but there is no job for hubby in the UK unless he wants to travel Europe Monday - Friday and we don't want a part time marriage. So we nned to explore boarding schools. Our son was at The Downs in Malvern prior to us relocating and the support he had was terrific, but he was at the stage where his next school, Malvern College, and the fees were moving out of our price range and I needed at least another year of my career to be able to fund approx £23,500 per year in fees.

Not being able to work here has removed the option of boarding from us, we don't have rich relatives, nor does hubby as an expat earn the type of money that you hear about. It's a myth. So even if we did return to the UK, it will take me a few years to re establish my career, by which time he will have finished his GCSE's and I wouldn't have been around to provide the additional external support required.

One of his biggest problems is his lack of concentration after his inability to read, write and all the other issues, so all these additional lessons and therapies available out of school hours and at additional, considerable, costs are just not practical solutions.

If you have any experience of the South African education system or of Dyslexia, please let me know as I'm banging my head against the wall while my son continues to fail his school terms.

I cam across this website today. A parent's guide to schooling in South Africa, found a Question that I related to and wept as I read the response:

My daughter has special learning needs. Do regular schools have remedial programmes, or must she go to a special school?

It depends on the severity of the problem and on how well-resourced the school is. In 2010, there were 104 633 children in 423 public special needs schools. There are also private schools for children with severe remedial problems or disabilities.

South Africa has a policy of inclusive education, which includes various models to integrate special-needs children into ordinary schools. However, a lack of resources and infrastructure have meant that this policy has been slow to implement and children who have been mainstreamed don't always get the special education they need.

Some of the better-off schools, both state-aided and private, offer remedial education in one form or another. They employ remedial teachers and run small remedial classes alongside regular classes.


  1. Hi,
    I don't have any experience in this field so can offer nothing of advice for you. Just hope you find a suitable and effective alternative for your son. God knows it's hard enough being an expat without these other problems, especially getting the best education for your children. Good luck with your search:) Thinking of you:)

    1. Thank you Anne-Marie for your response. These are all things I never realised I'd have issues with and it's a tough decision as to what to do for the best of all involved.

  2. Hi Suzanne,
    One person who may be able to help or at least give advice is Ilze van der Merwe-Alberts. She is the founder of the biggest psychological centre in Africa, Bella Vida Centre in Bryanston (Johannesburg).
    I interviewed her for my Expat Guide to Johannesburg and found her not only to be very clever and caring, but also sensitive to our special situation and needs as expats.
    You find her contacts on

    Best of luck -

    Barbara Bruhwiler

    PS: As accompanying spouses, having left our paid workplace, we are not really out of work – but we usually don’t get recognition for what we do. We hardly get a "Thank You". No wonder you asked yourself if you are successful!
    Look at how you take care of your family, even in your difficult situation! Look at how you help the needy, with your charity work! Look at how you even find time to support us other expats, with your great blog!
    Is it really a question if you are successful or not??
    YOU ROCK!!!

    1. Thank you for the information, support and comment. i will google the school and call them this week, thank you so much

  3. Hi there - I see this post is about a year old, but I am also now struggling with the same problem. We recently moved with my teenager daughter (16) to the Overberg Region. She was in private school for 7 years (main stream private) that helped her with her dyslexia. Now, in the "normal" main stream, they do not seem equipped to help my daughter to the full extent. I have found someone to read and write during tests and exams, but I find that her fellow learners and even most of her teachers are uneducated when it comes to dyslexia. They think that she is stupid and she feels like a "freak" - typical teenage reaction. Did you have any suggestions that will help both me and her adapt to this new experience?

    1. i'm afraid we exhausted the education system here and sent our 14yo son back to the UK to boarding school there, where he has improved greatly with one to one learning support. We did consider home tutoring and/or a private tutor, but we needed to consider his future and opted for British qualifications. i hope you get some help on this matter.

  4. Hi chickenruby, I know your post and answers are from a few years ago. However I would love to hear about your experience with the school in UK.
    We are expats in HongKong and have three children with dyslexia and the schools here do not cater for such learning difficultiy.
    We are so frustrated about the school situation (and the costs in UK) that we are now looking worldwide. Hence me finding you under SA.
    I would love to hear about your experience with the UK school. Can you recommend it? What are the costs? Is the school main focus learning difficulties or is it a private mainstream school with extra support?
    Thanks a lot for your help!!
    Best, Stephanie

    1. Hi Stephanie,
      we find our son's school is perfect to fit his learning needs, the school he attends happens to be the feeder school he would've moved onto from his prep school had we not left the UK. however we did research several boarding schools like his, that specialise in teaching children with dyslexia prior to making the decision. One school we discounted as it only taught up to the age of 16, another was in North Wales, too far from family and the 3rd school was too specialised and also focused on students with learning behaviour which we felt would distract from our son's learning.
      This website will be able to provide you with guidance in assisting with choosing a school that specialises in dyslexia. Be advised that if your children are not British then the fees for coming from over seas are higher.
      Good luck and let me know how you get on.

    2. sorry re read your comment. Fees for our son are in excess of £30,000 a year, this is due to boarding, additional learning support, additional fees for exams in the form of a reader and scribe, plus pocket money, lap top, specialist soft ware, etc, etc, flights to us during holidays, transport to airports. It isn't cheap, but so far worth it.

    3. HI Chickenruby

      I desparatley need help, I have a daughter with Autism, I would like to do anything to help her. Can you please send me details.

  5. I'm not sure about your question, but have you tried to send a report to someone, who is working in Minestry of Education. I'm they have to know such kind of things because of work. Hope u'll be fine. Stay safe.