Short description

Sparrow Schools consists of three different learning facilities for 600 learners of different ages with learning disabilities, and mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds.


There are two important roles that Sparrow Schools fulfils in South Africa.  Firstly it provides a stimulating education environment for special needs learners and secondly it provides accredited artisanal skills training and job placement.

In 2007, the Department of Education produced a report entitled “Guidelines to Ensure Quality Support in Special Schools and Special School Resource Centres”. It states that special schools have an important role to play in an inclusive education system in order to promote full development, human potential and a sense of dignity and self worth. It then highlights that there are just 408 special needs schools in South Africa, and that very few of these offer appropriate, quality education, meaning that many learners do not progress beyond Grade 1.

South Africa currently has a mismatch problem in the skills training environment.  On the one hand it has 25.6% unemployment and an adult population of whom 60.9% have not completed secondary school.  On the other hand there is a well documented artisanal skills shortage.


Sparrow Schools Educational Trust was established in 1989 and is the only educational institution of its kind in South Africa. Sparrow Schools focuses on children and youth with learning disabilities due to many different causes, including HIV related issues, trauma and many other emotional and societal challenges. The organisation comprises of three educational and training facilities which together educate more than 600 learners per annum.

The majority of learners stem from disadvantaged or marginalised backgrounds and would normally never have access to the services that Sparrow Schools offer.

  • The Foundation School is for learners aged 7 to 14 who graduate through grades 1 to 7.  During the intermediate and senior phases they study languages, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, economic and management studies, arts and culture and life orientation.
  • Sparrow Combined School caters to learners aged 13 to 18.  The school covers Grade 8 and 9, where the learner will get a grade 9 and NQF 1 qualification.
  • Sparrow Combined FET College has learners over 16 who focus on a vocational skill. The college offers an NQF 2 qualification in motor mechanics, welding and carpentry.  An NQF 1 is offered on floor laying and various catering courses are provided giving credits towards sector qualifications.

Sparrow Schools has a holistic education and care model.  Children have access to a Learner Support Unit consisting of therapists, a social worker, and an educational psychologist.  Sparrow has partnered with UJ who will be sending students to do their practical experience there.

What we like about this organisation

  • The schools provide a caring environment for learners complete with an educational psychologist as well as final year occupational therapy and social work students from University of Johannesburg who work with children as part of their practical training.  The school also provides a stimulating education environment and are well equipped to assist learners to reach their potential. It is complete with libraries, computer labs, counseling centres, art studios, woodwork and cooking workshops and sports fields.
  • The learners gain practical skills right from foundation phase learning and if they qualify, they are able to move from secondary school to the FET college.  This is important for special needs learners who mostly will not qualify to enter a university.  The FET college is relatively new, but already is focusing its efforts on ensuring there is a demand for certain skills before offering these training courses.  By aligning itself with businesses that require ongoing staffing in certain skill areas, Sparrow Schools is ensuring that dedicated students will have access to a job.

What difference can your money make?

  • R10 000 will buy workbooks for one FET student per annum
  • R250 000 will educate nine disadvantaged learners per annum or six FET students per annum
  • R750 000 will educate 27 disadvantaged learners per annum or 20 FET students per annum

Volunteering opportunities

  • Sparrow Schools is always in need of specialist volunteers such as speech therapists and occupational therapists as well as classroom support and sports coaching