Action needed on special needs schooling crisis

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This article was written and published by HeraldLIVE on November 17, 2021.

In SA, the right to basic education is entrenched in the constitution.

While those few words are well known, it offers very little comfort to the hundreds of parents battling to find a place for their children with special needs.

One Nelson Mandela Bay mother was forced to quit her job and make dozens of visits to the education department offices and various schools before her six-year-old son found a place at a school.

Simone Laufs’ story is, unfortunately, not unique. 

For many other parents, like her, the lack of facilities and teachers for special needs pupils is so dire, many have been left with nowhere to turn.

Some opt to keep their children at home, despite education being a basic right.

There are about seven special needs schools in the metro. But the seats needed for these pupils far outstrip the demand.

The problem has been going on for years, with the department’s only solution being to increase the number of temporary or excess teachers. 

This poor policy implementation is partly to blame for the worsening situation. The buck stops with the department of education.

Gqeberha educational psychologist Gerhardt Goosen summed up the situation perfectly. 

He said it was tantamount to an abuse of pupils’ constitutional rights to not receive adequate and appropriate education in line with their requirements.

Zooming into David Livingstone Secondary School was earmarked as a special needs pilot project three years ago.

There was much fanfare with the department’s announcement but what has happened since then?

Three years later, there is just one teacher to cover the three classes that cater to special needs pupils. 

Teachers at the school are also forced to donate equipment and resources for the school.

That is why a few words on a piece of paper means nothing for these parents — action means everything.

While there is no quick fix to this problem, increasing the number of teachers is not the solution. They still need equipment and facilities.

That’s an F for fail!