40 years ago, most Sabahans were ignorant about persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities; dismissing their “out of the norm” behaviours and difficulties as mental illness, to be referred to psychiatrists.
A group of 10 children aged 6 to 12 years old from the government primary schools were wrongly referred to the Bukit Padang Hospital (now known as Hospital Mesra) for psychiatric treatment because of that ignorance.
These children were not able to cope with the mainstream school syllabus, and the teachers did not know how to teach them or to handle their behavioural challenges.
At that time, the government schools had not yet set up the “Pendidikan Khas” classes for this category of students.
Subsequently, an expatriate psychiatrist the late Dr Sarbadikary, together with local and expatriate volunteers, in collaboration with the Sabah Mental Health Association, initiated the beginnings of “Sekolah Seri Mengasih” (as it was initially known then).
It was managed by a Board of Directors with the late Datuk Haji Mohd Safari Manan as the founding Chairman.
Three locals were the first to be employed as teachers to start Seri Mengasih’s class of 1981.
Yayasan Sabah had helped tremendously during Seri Mengasih’s first decade of establishment, by
- allowing the use of a footballers changing room at the Likas Sports Complex as a make-shift classroom during weekdays for a period of two and half years, from January 1981 to May 1983
- providing the use of one of its van and a driver, to pick up and send home the students daily
- providing an annual grant for payment of teachers’ salaries and other expenses
- employing a CUSO (Canada) special education teacher, Mr Peter Braganza to head the school from June 1981 to June 1983
In June 1983, Seri Mengasih moved to its current location next to the Tanjung Aru 3rd Beach. By then there were nearly 20 students in its enrollment.
With this relocation, Seri Mengasih was able to expand further in student numbers, and able to begin providing a more comprehensive range of specialized training programmes, and services for the students, and their families.
In 1992, Seri Mengasih Centre became independent of the Sabah Mental Health Association, with the formation of the Registered Trustees of Seri Mengasih Trust.
The four founding Trustees are as follows:
- Tan Sri Thomas Jayasuriya
- Tan Sri Haji Abdul Hamid Egoh
- the late Tan Sri Benedict Stephens
- the late Datuk Haji Abdul Samad Bin Johari
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Seri Mengasih Centre
Seri Mengasih Centre is a charity non-governmental organisation known as the Registered Trustees of Seri Mengasih Trust.