Words by Paula Louw
Operations Manager, Zuka Private Game Reserve

The life of Khulani Special School, in the Mduku community began in 1998; a daily gathering of special needs children, with mild to extreme physical and cognitive difficulties watched over by two mothers, Elsie Nsukwini and Crazentia Ngobesie, giving the greatest care they could offer, under a tree.

Khulani Special School is an extraordinary story close to our hearts as it wends through the timeline of Zuka Private Game Reserve. From these humble beginnings, Khulani has grown to provide today 311 children (a close to equal spread of boys and girls) with their accommodation, medical care, and therapies as well as meeting their educational needs through a staff compliment of 38 qualified teachers and carers.

Crucially, Khulani Special School has become a place of refuge in the catchment area of Mduku, Mngobokazi and Nibela for children who are vulnerable to abuse and ridicule in a community with an array of financial and health challenges.

In 2002, having worked with Crazentia some years before at Phinda Forest Lodge, I identified the critical need for far greater support for the children and the compassionate and overstretched care Crazentia was able to give. Supporting Crazentia, I was able to galvanise the next stage and hence Wild Impact (formally known as Africa Foundation) formalised Khulani Special School as a project to fund and facilitate its development.

So too, the late Inkosi Simon Gumede, parents of the children and members of the community contributed in multiple ways through lobbying, building, and donations of materials and school fees, often beyond their capacity.  Slowly the school evolved.

Mrs Tokisile Nxumalo was appointed Principal of Khulani Special School in 2010 and Wild Impact UK’s fundraiser in 2009 – Art For Africa – at Sotheby’s in London enabled the first major works of the new school to start. From this point, the Department of Education was fully catalysed and approved an incredible budget for further construction, staffing and transport, to realise all the requirements necessary for a fully operational school of this kind.

2012 saw the unveiling of Khulani Special School as a result of a core of extraordinary women, community energy and collaboration between tenacious, committed individuals, and multiple stakeholders. This alchemy has positively changed the lives of hundreds of children and their families throughout the Mduku area and will continue to do so far in to the future.