Mpumalanga pupils with disabilities left stranded

Joyce Sibiya, 50, from Nkomazi, is worried that her disabled child will have to drop out of school because there is no educational centre that can accommodate her in Mpumalanga.

Sibiya said her 16-year-old daughter Nkosikwenzile Shabangu completed primary school at Bukhosibetfu Primary School in Driekoppies last year. However, she will not be able to continue with her studies as she is expected to find a school outside the province.

“Soon as we realised that she was a slow learner and failing to grasp everything, we took her to the special school where she did well and passed her Grade 7.

“I am afraid to take her to a normal school because other pupils will laugh at her and she won’t make it. We would like to appeal to the government to build a centre in which disabled children will be trained. I did manage to get a private school for her but it’s expensive, I can’t afford it,” said Sibiya.

Nonhlanla Tshisani, 39, of Block C in Nkomazi, faces the same problem. Her 17-year-old son Surprise Zitha also attended a special-needs school in Nkomazi where he completed Grade 9. He is now at home because there is no public high school that accommodates special- needs children in the province.

“My boy is stressed because he always stays at home while other children are going to school. Private schools are very expensive and we also don’t have money to take him to a special school situated outside the province,” said Tshisani.

These are among the many children living with disabilities who are unable to continue with their studies because there are no facilities to accommodate them in Mpumalanga.

When delivering his state of the province address in 2011, former Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza, who is now deputy president, said the provincial government was planning to build a special-needs high school. More than 10 years have passed and there is still no progress.

A few years ago, a special-needs school in Limpopo expelled about 18 pupils from Mpumalanga on the grounds that they were occupying space for locals.

When contacted for comment, Patrick Mahlakwane, a leader of the Disabled People of South Africa, accused the government of destroying the future of
children living with disabilities.

“This is a human rights violation because these kids have the right to access education like other children,” said Mahlakwane.

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Masoka Dube

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