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The Mary Harding School was originally established in 1980.

This school is one of many "special schools" in the Western Cape to cater to the education and training of mentally handicapped children.


Our Beginnings

A bequest from the late Mary Harding in 1980 gave this school sufficient impetus and the necessary finance to open its doors to those children previously overlooked by the general public as "uneducable."

The first children to enter the school had NEVER had the advantage of formal or informal education. Previously, they had to be cared for by family or foster parents and few had acquired even the most basic of self-help skills, not to mention "education" as we now know it.

Armed with four class-rooms and four teachers and class assistants, the Center started its mission: To train the profoundly mentally handicapped child, and afford him or her the opportunity and benefit of education and skills training.
By 1982, the student body had risen from 30 students to 80 students; and formed part of Cape Mental Health, an organization based in Mowbray, Cape Town which provides health services and guidance to families and caregivers of mentally handicapped people of all ages.
Cape Mental Health joined hands with the Mary Harding School to establish the "Garden Home" (for boys) and "Torrence Home" (for girls) and established the Garden Pot Sheltered Workshop, which is adjacent to the school buildings and which still provides essential services to many disabled young adults in a sheltered - employment setting and environment.
By 1986 the numbers of children needing special care and specialized education had risen exponentially. Clearly better facilities were required, and more classrooms were built, more teachers employed and a hostel facility for children from the outlying areas of the Western Cape and indeed, from all over Southern Africa, had to be built.
Now, some 17 years after the school was first established, we are home to 288 students from Athlone, Gugulethu, Manenberg, Heideveldt, Khayelitsha and Woodstock (the old "District 6") as well as family to those children from our rural areas in the Western Cape and who are unable to find suitable placement closer to their home-towns and families.
The need for education, therapy and training as well as loving care and accommodation at the school increases daily.

We now have 22 classes, a staff of 120, and a hostel facility which is home to 89 children from all over South Africa.

Our total student body numbers 240!




Our school motto -- "Why should they be Helpless?" says it all.

We have come a long way since then, and the road ahead looks, at times, hard to travel.   But the journey continues as we face each new day with renewed vigor, confidence and caring for each other and the special children in our care.

  • Visit our Program Page to discover some myths and misconceptions about mental handicap as well as the school program and information about admission to the school.

  •  Visit our Computer Laboratory to learn more about the use of computer technology and its use with the training, therapy and education of the mentally handicapped child.

  • Read our Diary to learn more about our activities.

  • Take a look at our School Program and see how much can be achieved with these special children.

  • Take a moment to visit our new  Students and Parents Page which is designed for parents, families and caregivers of children who are handicapped - we care about their needs and try to address fears, concerns and queries there as best we can.  

  • Check out our  Feedback and Links Pages to learn more about special education and other resources on the Internet which may be useful to teachers, therapists and families alike.

  • .Contact us!


    phone: 021-6378068

    fax: 021-6387915


    e-mail your comments and suggestions - positive or negative to:

    Webmaster:  Mary Harding School



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    Mary Harding School for Mentally Handicapped Children

    Klipfontein Road


    Cape Town

    South Africa

    Pages designed and maintained by Urly Bird Productions

    Sandy Z

    UPDATED:17:00 hrs 14 January, 1998