Since its inception in 1989, Sparrow Schools has remained committed to its mission to provide quality, holistic education to South African learners with cognitive disabilities and to youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. Sparrow, which first began as a Saturday morning school with 4 learners in one of Joubert Park’s church halls, had already, by 1992, established itself as The Sparrow Saturday Morning School in Braamfontein, on Juta Street. Founder, Jackie Gallagher, worked relentlessly to grow the school so that by the end of 1992, it was home to over 20 teachers and 550 learners. Given the school’s unprecedented growth, Jackie soon identified the need to register the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust as a Non-Profit Organisation, thus forming a board of trustees that would assist her to build educational projects and source funding for current and future learners enrolled. Together they envisioned Sparrow Schools, catering from Grade 1-9, as a bridging school that, through accelerated teaching methodologies, would enable learners to compete realistically in “open” or mainstream schools.
Although Sparrow Schools now exists as three different, fully equipped campuses, in the early years, Jackie and her trustees undertook relentless fundraising in order to upgrade and convert the school so that it had blackboards, desks and chairs. In 1993, they registered with the Department of Education, and began to receive small state grants that assisted with the upkeep of the school and its resources. Despite the local and international support that Sparrow Schools now enjoys, Jackie has stayed true to her vision to equip as many South African youth with the educational resources to access future employment. Not only has she been involved in refurbishing buildings and training teachers for Sparrow Schools, from as early as 1991, she extended this support to Lerajabetsie Primary in Sweetwaters, along with numerous other schools in informal settlements. As Sparrow Schools continues to expand, Jackie and her fellow trustees are reminded of the ways in which they have met and will need to carry on meeting the needs of the communities in which they work — filling a much needed gap for the education of disadvantaged learners in South Africa.