·        The King George VI Centre, situated in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe provides rehabilitation and boarding facilities to children from the age of 3 to 18 years with physical disabilities and hearing impairments.

·        The Centre works in conjunction with the King George VI Memorial School and takes children from all over the country. 

·        The Centre comes under the authority of the National Society for the Blind & Physically Handicapped.  It is a welfare organisation (non governmental organisation) reliant on donations. 

·        The Centre is managed by 2 Directors under the guidance of a Management Committee of concerned and experienced residents of Bulawayo.

·        In January 2007 there were 96 students in boarding, more than ever before.




·        KGVI School works in conjunction with the Centre.  It is the only secondary education facility in Zimbabwe for disabled children and the only primary school in the southern part of the country, thus the children come from all over the country. 

·        The school follows the normal government curriculum and takes students from nursery level up to O levels.

·        The school staff receive their salaries from the Ministry of Education but all other expenses have to be met from funds raised by the school.

·        In January 2007 the total enrolment was 244 students.


Educational Programmes

Students at KGVI are given the opportunity to participate in four different aspects of education.  Each of these plays its own unique and vital part in equipping them for their futures. Through the therapy departments the Centre tries to alleviate the child’s handicap as much as is possible and with the addition of the independent living units the children are also taught self reliance and daily living skills.  The school takes the children as far as they can with their education but also widens their horizons and builds their confidence.

1.      Academic

·        The school follows the government curriculum, offering an academic education to children from 3 years to 18 years that is from nursery to Form 4.  The usual exams are offered - Grade 7(at 12 years old) and ‘O’ level (16 years).

·        Inevitably there are some children who cannot manage the higher level exams and at secondary level they are put into a more practical class and in addition to some academic classes they are also taught more practical skills such as agriculture, home economics and money management.

·        While at school the children also take part in those sports activities suitable for their disabilities, for instance basketball for the hearing-impaired and wheelchair basketball for the stronger physically disabled children. 

·        In addition to sports we also have a very strong arts programme and each year the students put on some form of show for the Bulawayo public.  One year we launched our own poetry book, the next year we put on an arts festival of music, drama, singing, dancing, poetry and art.  The next year we made a dramatic film and took part in an inter-schools talent competition which we subsequently won. We have also released an audio tape of a group of students singing and recently produced a drama video which will be used for AIDS awareness for deaf people throughout Zimbabwe.  Thus despite their severe disabilities the school makes sure that the children receive a well rounded education.


At present the school has a policy of inward integration, which means that we are bringing non-disabled students into KGVI.  We like to bring children in at the nursery and primary level so that they can grow through the school and get to understand the needs of their fellow pupils.  Meanwhile the disabled students have access to the special facilities on offer at KGVI.  So far the integration process is showing great benefits especially by providing greater competition and incentive in academic performance.


2.      Independent Living

·        We have 10 independent living units where the boarders live in family groups under the care of a houseparent.  Of these units, 7 are conversions from the old boarding hostel while 3 are houses in the nearby suburb, within walking distance of the Centre.  In addition we run a house for school leavers working either at the Centre or in Bulawayo.

·        In the Independent Living Units the children learn the vital survival skills of independence.  No matter how disabled each child is encouraged to learn to do as much for themselves as their disability will allow.  The increased confidence and ability of the children involved has been incredible and it has been wonderful to see how the children have answered the challenges presented by this new life style. 

·         The children very quickly adapt to the idea of independent living.  Duty lists are worked out, pairing a very disabled child with one who is stronger and more able so that together they can produce the evening meal for the family.  However, each house has one or two children who are so severely disabled that it is not easy to find something they can assist with.  We then ask the Occupational Therapy department to step in and help the child find a way to undertake some household chore. 

·        While living in the Units both children and staff receive training and experience in the following subjects: health, nutrition, cleaning, budgeting, leisure time activities, computer work, income generation, counselling, running meetings and general confidence building

·        With the increasing difficulties being faced by everyone in Zimbabwe, counselling has become a very important element of our programme.  We now have five staff members who have attended official counselling courses. Outwardly our children seem to be remarkably well adjusted but inevitably they need help to deal with such problems as the continuing illness and loss of family members, the fear of the future and the outside world or simply the frustration of a disability. 

·         One thing that has become clear is that with so many deaths taking place around them, many of our students have a real fear of being abandoned.  Learning that they can look after themselves has taken a great deal of this fear away.  Most of them now feel that they could manage and even help younger siblings. 

3.  Rehabilitation

·        Another vital element of the education of our children takes place in our three therapy departments.  Here the children learn to either overcome or to deal with their disabilities.  The rehabilitation programme is an essential part of the total education offered to the children and is a vital partner to the independent living programme.

·        In the physiotherapy department the children learn to control their bodies and are also fitted out with wheelchairs, callipers and crutches.  Not all our children learn to walk and not all will be able to push themselves in their wheelchairs, but even the most disabled child needs exercises to build muscles and to try and give them as natural a movement as possible. 

·        Working in conjunction with the independent living programme, the occupational therapy department helps each child to reach their full potential for self-care. 

·        In the speech department the children learn to speak clearly and to speak out for themselves.  For those children who will never be able to speak, an alternative form of communication is devised. 

·        The children are also taught about their particular disabilities both at the Centre and through other organisations.  For instance last holiday our two Haemophiliac boys attended a week long workshop on how to deal with their condition.  This workshop seems to have got through to the boys, as we never could, the need to tone down their youthful exuberance in order to avoid accidents!


4.  Work Experience

·        Throughout their time at KGVI the students are prepared for their futures.  Trying to find a job in a market already flooded with non-disabled people provides an almost insurmountable problem to anyone with a disability.  For this reason senior students are given some counselling and work experience opportunities. 

·        In addition to this the Centre now runs an apprenticeship programme.  We try to take three school leavers per year to work within a department gaining experience and new practical skills.  Following this programme we now employ several of our school leavers: three in administration, one in the kitchen, one in the maintenance department, two in the garden and one in the laundry. 

·         Over the past few years several students have been assisted to find employment in factories, hair salons, offices, craft centres and even a safari camp.  Some of the students have become employed by family or become self-employed as the young man who set up his own chicken project and now supplies the Centre with chickens.  Another student is working as a research officer for the Bulawayo Muscular Dystrophy Association.  Our greatest success has been the hearing impaired student who won a scholarship to a university in America and has now returned and is teaching at KGVI!  We also have an ex student who went through the University of Zimbabwe and is now employed at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.




Facts & Figures

Present enrolment:
Total school - 240
Day scholars – 144
Boarders from all over Zimbabwe – 96

Shortfall per child for 2006 – Z$444,000 (444 million in old currency)!

Families unable to pay fees  -  68%



Statistics on family situation of children at KGVI:

Orphans  (1in 5)

Children who have lost 1 parent  (1 in 5)

Total children at risk (1 in 2)!






Average income of parents/guardians under Z$ 100 000 (£10 per month). This will buy only the most basic of foodstuffs and leaves nothing left for transport, school fees and clothes. Those families who have some form of income are self employed either as peasant farmers or as vegetable vendors.  An increasing number of families have no fixed income and are leaving the urban centres to return to the rural areas where they can at least grow some food. 

Physical conditions of Students:

Cerebral Palsy

Hearing Impaired

Speech Problems

Muscular Dystrophy

Spina Bifida

Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bones)


Trauma Injuries




Social Problems

With the increasing difficulties being faced by everyone in Zimbabwe, counselling has become a very important element of our programme.  We now have six staff members who have attended official counselling courses. In addition we have run afternoon workshops for all the houseparents and nursing staff in child rights, dealing with problems, and how to help children in difficult circumstances.  The children are encouraged to bring their problems to any member of either centre or school staff.  Outwardly our children seem to be remarkably well adjusted but inevitably they need help to deal with such problems as the continuing illness and loss of family members, the fear of the future and the outside world or simply the frustration of a disability. 

It is possible to gain a good picture of the problems facing our students by taking a look at just 10 of our boarders:-.

Child 1 has Osteogenesis Imperfecta and lost her father and mother last year over a period of 6 months The brother now in charge does not know if they will be able to continue to send her to school or even who will take care of her in the future.

Child 2 has Muscular Dystrophy, also lost her father through AIDS and the family are now reliant on the small income made by the mother.

Child 3 has Cerebral Palsy.  Father has died and mother is in hospital on a long term TB treatment programme.  She was released from hospital to come and arrange for her son to come into our boarding units.

Child 4 is hearing impaired and has lost both his parents.  He is cared for by an aunt who has no interest in the child and even sells the few clothes the Centre have to provide him with.  He has to be visited in the holidays to make sure his uncles do not beat him.

Child 5 also with Muscular Dystrophy lost his father two years ago and does not come regularly to school.  He also has unhealed wounds that are never treated properly by the family.

Child 6 has Spina Bifida and has lost both parents.  She is cared for by an ancient grandmother who runs a local drinking club and who cannot help her with her school work or regular therapy.  She has to be visited in the holidays to make sure her grandmother takes care of her health needs.

Child 7 became disabled following the car accident which killed her mother.  She was in hospital for many months and not once visited by her father.  No one in the family wants to take responsibility for her.

Child 8 had polio and has lost both parents.  The family are presently arguing over who will take care of him. When he arrived at KGVI he was dressed in rags and had not eaten for 2 days.


Child 9 is deaf with poor health.  She is cared for by an old grandmother who has also inherited 3 other grandchildren following the deaths of her own children.  She has no resources and on a recent visit to the home the children were found to be in a very bad way.

Child 10 is a little boy with Cerebral Palsy who has lost both his parents.  He was being cared for by his grandfather but every holiday we had to take him home as his grandfather ‘forgot’ to collect him.  This term his grandfather has disappeared without trace and rather than put him in an orphanage for the holiday one of our staff has agreed to take him home, but what is the future for this little boy?


Increasingly we have to take care of the family as well as the child!


During the August holiday of 2004 for the first time our biggest fear was realised when one of our children was not collected for the holidays.  Following many attempts to contact this child’s very rural family we discovered that her mother and father had died leaving a 20 year old brother in charge of the family.  He had not been able to leave his younger brothers and sisters in order to come and collect his deaf sister.  Now we are having to provide him with bus fares so that his sister can be collected each holiday. 


In 2005 we had to appoint one of our staff members to visit some families in the holidays to make sure that the children were being properly looked after.  We now have 6 families who need regular visits to ensure the physical and mental well being of the children.  These are inevitably orphans who are being taken care of by distant relatives who really don’t have the finances or the inclination to look after a disabled child as well as their own children.


In the December holidays one little deaf girl of 10 was visited only to find that she was the only one at home taking care of 3 younger children.  They were all dressed in rags and had had nothing to eat that day.  They are cared for by their grandmother as their parents have all died.  She has a small plot of land where she tries to grow enough food to feed her young family.  One of the KGVI staff was so touched by their plight that he organised his church group to visit and help the family by cleaning up the yard and providing some food and clothes.


We now have a holiday care programme where at risk children are visited often several times to make sure the child is being taken care of.  In some cases medical supplies are given to the family and sometimes food.  Several children are given bus fares or their families would not bring them back to school at all.


Most of our orphans and many of our other children now need regular counselling to help them deal with the social problems at home.  This can be death of parents or close family members, physical or mental abuse or just plain neglect.  One of our counsellors formed a support group for 12 little orphaned girls.  Sadly for them they are also some of our most disabled students and 10 of them are in wheelchairs. They are called Ntombizodwa which means girls only, and meet once a week to discuss problems, offer support, and do some small income generating projects to help any of their members in trouble.  Their hard work and dedication was recently rewarded with a trip to Masiye Camp, the Salvation Army based organisation for support of orphans.



With new initiatives we are now working hand in hand with many other organisations involved with either the disabled or with childcare.  KGVI as an organisation holds the deputy chair position on the Regional Advocacy Committee of the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH) and also takes a seat on the Lorewo Management Committee.  In addition we have developed strong ties with the Zimbabwe Parents of Children with Disabilities Association (ZPCDA) and this very vocal and active group does not hesitate to assist and participate in workshops. We feel that we have at last become a part of the disabled community.

KGVI staff work in close collaboration with the following organisations:-


·        Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children - training of houseparents

·        National Association   (NASCOH) advocacy and lobbying

·        Zimbabwe Parents of Children with Disabilities Association – advice & workshops

·        Unicef – child rights and AIDS programmes

·        Masiye Camp (Salvation Army) – camps for training of AIDS orphans

·        SOS Children’s Village – advice and collaboration

·        Abilities Workshop (a sheltered workshop)- adaptation & repairs, leisure equipment

·        Lorewo – an organisation supported by UNDP producing wheelchairs, walkers etc

·        Contact & Connect (family support groups) - counselling and capacity building

·        Jairos Jiri - future training and job opportunities plus many of our secondary students attended primary school at JJ.

·        Permaculture - gardening

·        National Council for Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe - lobbying and disability aids

·        Local churches – services, counselling, leisure programmes

·        Amakhosi Theatre – music and drama

·        Bulawayo Art Gallery – art workshops

·        Local music & drama groups - leisure programmes