Highlights from Learner Support Unit

The Learner Support Unit is comprised of therapists and other professionals whose goals are to assist Sparrow Schools learners with barriers to learning. Barriers to learning can be described as any factor (physical, cognitive or emotional) that stops a learner from reaching their full potential. The Learner Support Unit works in a collaborative way, with the various therapists working together with parents and educators to ensure that each learner is helped holistically.

The LSU has made some great strides through the years helping inspire action while changing lives . See below:

Sandile Mkhonza – Foundation School learner *


Mkhonza has been attending the Sparrow Foundation School since the start of 2014. Upon arriving at the school, it was apparent that Mkhonza struggled with communicating in class and relating to his peers. This was all despite the fact that in a non-verbal way he showed a warm and bubbly personality. A multidisciplinary approach, involving Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and Play Therapy, was employed to help Mkhonza reach his full potential. Mkhonza has made excellent progress and interacts well with his educators and peers and is one of the most liked learners in his class. In additional to the social skills that he has gained, the play therapy that he has received has helped him with some emotional issues that he had in the past.

Sizwe Simelane – Combined School learner

Simelane started at the Combined School in 2012. Despite being a hardworking and diligent young man, he struggled academically. An assessment by the Educational Psychologist indicated some barriers to learning and as a result he was placed in the ASP program as it would better meet his academic needs. Additionally, Buhle received weekly therapy from the social worker at the Combined School to help with the adjustment and also to give Buhle guidance towards his future. By the end of 2014 Buhle had shown a great improvement in his school performance and even completed the ASP program. Owing to his hard working nature, the Combined School has given Buhle a scholarship to come back to the school to further his learning in Catering and assist in the school’s kitchen.

Mabaruti Makhetha –Foundation school parent

Didintle Makhethe. Grade 1F

“I would like to thank the Sparrow Foundation School. My daughter has been at Sparrow for four months now and we have seen a great change in her. When she came to the school she could hardly hold a pencil properly and writing was a challenge for her and she had already developed a negative attitude towards school. Didi has gained so much confidence she can write and trying to read as well. I wish we could have more schools and the type of dedicated Educators that we have.”

*Names have been changed.

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Melanie Malema driving change

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have,” Magaret Mead. Since joining Sparrow Schools in 2002 and realising the huge divide in South Africa’s education system, New Business Development Manager at Sparrow Schools, Melanie Malema has made great strides bringing meaningful change to the lives of young persons.

Malema developed interest in the social space in the year 2000 when she was approached by a church in Bryanston, Johannesburg. She was invited to run and manage a home that was established for boys who were living on the streets. These boys faced various social issues such as drug abuse and did not attend school.  This is when she came across Sparrow Schools which was the perfect fit for such boys.

Her drive for uplifting and empowering young persons continued and led her to helping develop the Sparrow FET College in 2010. She embarked on an exploratory mission doing research and finally witnessing the registration of the college as a credible training provider that offers SETA accredited courses.

“The Sparrow FET College trains young people in short skills that have been jointly identified with industry. This model provides industry with a pipeline of young entry level candidates who wish to embark on a particular trade,” explains Malema. The identification of relevant companies is crucial to the training as this is where learners gain their practical work experience and ultimately leads to full time employment.

The partnership between the learner, The Sparrow FET College and industry has proven to be an effective model in producing qualified candidates in areas of short skills and successfully contributing towards the eradication of unemployment in the country.

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Grand Opening of RYCO South Africa

On 14 August 2015, hydraulics giant, RYCO opened its very first office and warehouse in South Africa. The launch in Midrand provided two of the Sparrow FET College students in the Fluid Power Hose Assembly programme with hands-on workplace interaction with industry experts. Furthermore, with networking in mind and being surrounded with industry leaders, our students got to speak to several guests concerning job openings, learnership and internship opportunities as well as basic knowledge sharing.

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Apart from the scrumptious light meals made by two of the Sparrow FET College Assistant Chef students, another spectacle was a piece of machinery called RYCO APS which has been recently imported from Australia. The machine is 4 meters in length and 40 meters in height. It stores all the equipment including couplings, fitters, hoses, and very user friendly. As described by the RYCO personnel, “it is a warehouse on its own” which ideally reduces human error in the sense that a client will be handed the correct item. It is also time-efficient, user-friendly and saves space.

The APS Machine

The APS Machine

In addition, the students were accompanied by the FET’s New Business Manager, Melanie Malema and job coaches Kholofelo Mokwele and Mary Webber to inform the special guests more about our Fluid Power Hose Assembly skills programme.

The Sparrow FET College continues to assist students by not only providing quality education but also a gateway to the workplace which asserts our statement of continuing to inspire action and changing lives.

Words by Motlhabane Modupe.

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Michelle Pellaton beating the odds

Occasionally, we come across adversities as we navigate through life. Sometimes these obstacles that life throws at us seem insurmountable. For many of us, the easiest thing to do when faced with hardship is to retreat. Then there are those who are brave in enough to soldier on kicking down all the barriers. One such phenomenal woman is grade 1 special needs teacher at the Sparrow Foundation School, Michelle Pellaton.
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We live in a society where a lot of women are raised to aspire to marriage and be mothers. For a lot of women, being a mother forms a large part of their self-image. When life happens however, and it does not turn out as we wanted it to, the consequences can be crippling. When a woman cannot bear children, it tremendously affects her identity, but the pain can extend far beyond her to impact personal relationships,” says Lindsay Getz, a Freelance writer based in the United States of America.

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A New York based Psychotherapist, Marni Rosner, explains, “Women often begin to imagine themselves as mothers long before actually trying to have children, and this is certainly influenced by implicit cultural and societal messages that idealize motherhood. When this imagined self of a mother, however tentative, is withdrawn, it may result in feeling a loss of control, threaten her imagined future, cause her to doubt her womanhood, and feel like an assault on her ability to self-actualize.”

When Pellaton found out she could not have children, Instead of succumbing to depression and anger, her passion for children is what got her through. “I asked myself, ‘who are we to complain about our lives when there’s so much we can do for these children?’. There’s no reason why we should be allowing them to grow up thinking that that the world is cruel,” says Pellaton. She further adds, “Honestly, when I was going through Chemotherapy, these are the people that really got me through (Her learners),” Pellaton says.

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Her passion for dealing with children with special needs was partly inspired by her brother who is dyslexic. “I love autistics, I have so much love in me and I choose to give it to my children,” she says as her face lights up. From as early as 19 years old, she helped run a nursery school for five years in Sandton, Johannesburg. She has been and is still involved with various charity organisations including Nkosi’s Haven. Her classroom consists of children facing various learning barriers including autism, abuse and some are from places of safety.

As we all celebrate womanhood and pay tribute to the indomitable spirit of women across the country, Pellaton has some grievances. “For me women’s month means nothing because women still don’t get enough respect. I feel that it should be an ongoing thing, not just in August. There should be more respect and more understanding,” Pellaton explains.

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No money is no excuse

Sparrow Schools Educational Trust takes pride in being able to continually provide effective solutions to resolving South Africa’s education crisis, helping eradicate poverty and unemployment. Although the country still faces serious challenges, great strides have been made to ensure that there is equal opportunity for all. However, South Africa faces another hurdle in its pursuit for equality for all, Gender Discrimination.

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According to statistics published by the South African Revenue Service, “women earn nearly a third less than men on average in South Africa.” Women are faced with the challenge of having to do twice the work to prove their worthiness. The patriarchal status quo continues to be the hindering factor in many South African women’s lives.

However, just as South Africans fought to put an end to an unjust Apartheid system, the fight against gender discrimination is very much alive. Some young women are choosing to break down gender stereotypes and refuse to be victims. Emily Phepheng, is just one of many young women who have had to overcome great hurdles.


The young woman from Limpopo fell victim to a tale old as time. Boy meets girl, girl likes boy, boy and girl fall in love, girl falls pregnant and the father avoids responsibility. Phepheng fell pregnant at 20 years and the father left her to fend for herself. “I remember how difficult it was, I was young and I did not know how I was going to handle it,” Phepheng says.

Instead of taking the easy road and wallowing in despair, Phepheng enrolled at the Sparrow FET College for a Fluid Power Hose Assembly Skills Program. Despite the hydraulics industry being male dominated, Phepheng is on a mission to break down the stereotype. Her persistence and dedication earned her the title as class captain from a class dominated by males.

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Now 27 years old and a single mother of 2, she is now a permanent employee at hydraulics company, Alfagomma. She remains unfazed and continues to conquer the gender stereotypes. Her motivation comes from wanting to inspire her peers, moving them to take a stand and conquer their fears. “Do not focus on not having money, I went to Sparrow and got more information and here I am now,” Phepheng stresses.

The next milestone in Phepheng’s books is to get into logistics and take her career a step further. Speaking on how her life has changed since joining Sparrow, she explains, “I can now focus on more important things, I can focus on my kids and take care of them. I am a much more responsible mother.”

In respect of women’s month, we will continue to profile women whose lives have been changed. We will also be profiling the women playing crucial roles in ensuring that Sparrow Schools Educational trust continues to inspire action and change lives.

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