Seri Mengasih Centre was established in January 1981 as the first special school in the state of Sabah (Malaysia) for children whose special requirements could not be met in mainstream schools at that time. It was a project initiated by a group of volunteers in collaboration with the Sabah Mental Health Association and Rotary Club and established by a Board of Management.
A footballers’ changing room at the Likas Sports Complex, Kota Kinabalu was used to start the first class of 10 children aged 6 to 12 years old. The pioneer staff had consisted of 3 teachers, a general helper, and a CUSO (Canada) volunteer worker as its first Principal.
In June 1983, the school relocated to a spacious government residential building besides the beautiful Tanjung Aru beach, also in Kota Kinabalu.
From a very humble beginning of a single class operating in a place which had to be vacated whenever there were soccer matches; Sekolah Seri Mengasih, as it was initially named, has since developed into a special developmental centre. It was inevitable that our programs and services had to expand beyond the original class of 1981 because of the increasing needs and demands of the different disability types and ages.
During the first decade of our establishment, the children of families who sought our help were mainly those with Intellectual Disability and/or Chromosome Abnormality and/or Cerebral Palsy. However towards the late 1980s, we had our first enrolment of individuals on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. This disability type gradually increased in numbers until currently, half of our trainee population comprise of them.
And by 1990, some from the first class of 1981 had reached employable age requiring us to set up a vocational training workshop and to arrange for their work experience placements in the private sector.
In addition, around that same period, our program expansion had also included an early intervention program (EIP) for babies and a pre-school unit for young disabled children and along with that, was the setting up of a toy library sponsored by the Canadian Government. We decided to close down the pre-school unit in 1998 in order to encourage the children’s inclusion in mainstream kindergartens.
In 1995, upon the request of the Welfare Department, we helped to start one of Sabah’s first community-based rehabilitation (CBR KK) in our premises which then took over our EIP and Toy Library. CBR KK is now independent of us and operates from another place but maintains close networking with us.
We have come a long way from these early beginnings. Since our establishment in 1981, countless individuals and families have benefitted from our varied programs and services over the years. Briefly, these included those who came for our assessment and consultation service, as well as the ones who are now gainfully employed both within and outside our centre and a few who are married with children, and those living on their own and others who are studying in mainstream schools.