I first didn't like the idea of going to 'special' school. Like most people my misconception was that Jan Kriel was a school for 'stupid kids', but I couldn't have been more wrong. Although I had remarkable memory skills and excelled at history and geography, I had learning difficulties at school especially with numbers. In grade 7 I was still in a mainstream school battling to cope and always an outsider. I had little self confidence and almost no friends. I was the girl in the library during breaks losing myself in books to avoid the other kids.
Once I started having seizures and taking medication to manage it, I was constantly drowsy and excluded from activities because of my condition, no camping, swimming or sports. Besides putting on a lot of weight I felt even more excluded. After a miserable first year of high school my parents decided Jan Kriel School would be better suited for my educational future.
I was the first girl to arrive at 'Madeliefie koshuis' in 1988. The room was cosy with pretty curtains. I was pleasantly surprised as the other girls started arriving. Everyone was lovely and friendly. By the first night I felt safe and happy to be there. Instead of being excluded I got involved in in several activities including choir, netball and field athletics.
My grades also improved thanks to several excellent teachers. In maths my teacher took the time to understand how I think and adjusted his methods to help me excel instead of breaking me down. Eventually maths became my favourite class. My best friends in class were Ian and Theo. We became friends for life and still keep in touch. Upon my arrival I could not speak English very well but Mrs Oliphant was amazing, smart and whitty and had the most amazing sense of humour. She truly cultivated my love for the English language, so much so that I also became an English teacher!
Another activity that had a huge impact on my life was the 'Redenaars Kompetisie' (Public Speaking). It taught me self-confidence and I overcame my fear of speaking in front of people helping me become a strong individual. I will forever be grateful. Leaving the school was not my choice, it was the saddest moment of my school career.
After completing high school I travelled a lot. From Israel to Jerusalem, eventually ending in Brazil where I learned to speak Spanish and Portuguese. Besides getting married there and raising a family, I opened a private school teaching English in 2010 and have been teaching ever since. In 2012 I expanded to include social projects, teaching English and art for free to 96 learners from less fortunate families.
I am returning to South Africa later this year and would love to become part of the Jan Kriel family again, to give back and inspire new generations of learners.
I am a very proud Krielie and thankful for the opportunity to share my story - Sharon Silva