How It All Began
The real beginnings of The Browns’ School date back to as far as 1943, when some parents wished to draw the attention of the medical profession and the public to the cause of the Cerebral Palsied child.
The Origin of The Browns’ School name
Several housewives were persuaded in 1952 by a Durban mother to raise funds for a holiday home for Cerebral Palsied children. She also set about gaining press publicity for their cause. When asked to reveal her name, she chose to remain anonymous, merely saying, “Just call me Mrs Brown”. The group of concerned mothers followed suit and became known as “The Browns”. In 1955 “The Browns” was formally constituted, with a committee of twenty women and one man, who served as Chairman and Treasurer. Their aim was to enable mothers of CP children to gain some temporary relief from the demands of constantly caring for their children, whilst the children themselves could experience the joys of a real holiday by the sea.
Fundraising began and by 1957, enough money had been raised to begin the project. On 24 November 1958, the pre-school, Cerebral Palsy Therapy Centre, was begun in Durban. By September 1959 construction was completed and initially 12 children were accommodated.
Fundraising was very important and numerous extensive fundraising drives were held This included an annual fete, which has become part of the The Browns’ School tradition. The first fete was held in Durban in 1954 and eight women raised 900 pounds.
Transfer to the Department of Education
As time went on it became obvious that the Natal Cripple Care Association would not be able to continue running “The Browns” indefinitely, due to the enormous costs involved. It was agreed that the Department of Education, Arts and Science would take over the centre, which would now be run in accordance with the Special Schools Act. The state would now subsidise the running costs of the centre.
The first meeting of The Browns’ School Board was held on Monday 30 November 1964 and this can perhaps be considered as the time “The Browns’ School” really began.
The first Principal of the school, Mr F Rencken, was appointed Principal as from January 1965, and was to hold this post for 17 years.
Move to Pinetown
As the demands grew and increasing numbers of pupils were enrolled, accommodation began to become an increasingly urgent problem. The school moved from Sherwood to Pinetown in 1968, using an area of land near Mariannhill, and converting the stables on this site into classrooms. Prefabricated classrooms were then erected to meet growing needs. The old Jockey Academy building was used as a hostel, while a second hostel was established in Hillcrest.
Once again the demand made on the ability of the school to accommodate increasingly large numbers of pupils began to exceed its’ capacity. This, coupled with the threat of the new highway to be built, made it imperative that a new school be built.
The new school was designed to cater effectively for the needs of the Cerebral Palsied and the learning disabled. This eventually cost over R4 million. In 1979 the pupils and staff moved into the new buildings. By this time the pupil population had grown to 322. The dream of a school which would rival any of its sort in the world had at last come true.
Today there are about 375 pupils enrolled, with a very large staff, and a proud record of success in the development of each child that has passed through its system. The Browns’ School provides a unique opportunity for the holistic development of its special children, enabling them to achieve their potential to the greatest degree possible.
Currently there are now 3 sections to the school. One catering for the cerebral palsied child who does not fit into the mainstream environment, an autistic section and a section catering for the learning disabled child.
How proud the original ladies of “The Browns’” must be, of what has become a phenomenal development in special education in KZN since the days of their early efforts.
With growing public awareness and the ongoing efforts of those involved with the school, The Browns’ School should continue to do wonderful work for the special children it serves.