Mpumalanga Must Address Special Needs Education

James Masango MPL

DA Chief Whip, Mpumalanga Legislature

Mpumalanga is the only province in the country that has no government-funded and resourced remedial schools, despite repeated promises by the premier, Mr David Mabuza that attention will be paid to this gap in Mpumalanga’s education.

During both his 2011 and 2012 Sate of the Province Addresses, premier Mabuza pledged his administration’s commitment to the plight of children with disabilities, and that facilities would be constructed “so that they too get an opportunity to grow their different potentials”. The premier then encouraged parents with disabled children to come forward and “afford government an opportunity to assist where it could.”

However, it appears that the Department of Education is not in a position to assist, as the DA has on a few occasions been approached by parents and organisations who have applied for assistance from the department to educate children with needs ranging from remedial schooling to those who are physically and intellectually challenged – only to be turned away.

Although this call has been made for two consecutive years the DA has been approached by parents as well as organisations who applied to the Department of Education for assistance to educate children with certain needs, from remedial schooling, to those who are physically and intellectually challenged – only to be turned away.

While not physically disabled, children with learning disabilities require specialised teaching, and there are no public schools in the province that cater for those needs. Parents have no choice but to enrol their children into privately owned schools, but are refused financial assistance by the department because the schools are privately owned. Therefore many children with borderline disabilities such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and dyslexia, are forced into overcrowded mainstream schools – and end up failing a few years before dropping out of high school altogether.

Furthermore, a number of facilities providing special education for children with disabilities have approached the department for additional funding and assistance, but have received nothing to date, despite departmental visits to their premises on a number of occasions. Although the department is building a school for the deaf in Ehlanzeni and a school for the mentally disabled in Bushbuckridge, the DA believes that this is simply too little, too late.

Due to these shortfalls in the province’s education, the DA has submitted a number of written parliamentary questions to the MEC for education, Ms Reginah Mhaule to explain why the department has not yet delivered on premier Mabuza’s promises, and what the department’s plans are for assistance.

The DA asked MEC Mhaule how many children in Mpumalanga require special and remedial education, ranging from borderline disorders to severe mental and physical handicapped. The DA has also asked MEC Mhaule to show how many children the department assisted in the 2011/12 financial year, as well as how many it will assist in the 2012/13 financial year. The DA also asked the MEC to provide us with a list of all departmentally recognised and assisted schools in the province, as well as to provide us with a list of all medical, mental and learning barrier conditions that the department currently recognises and is effectively assisting children in the province with.

The right to equal and quality education is enshrined in our Constitution, regardless of one’s physical and mental abilities – and government has the mandate to deliver on that right.

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