Letter to editor: Develop skills, minds of children with disabilities

Safiyia Stanfley, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson on Education in the Northern Cape:

In the Northern Cape, we currently have about as many learners on the waiting list for public special schools as we have enrolled in those schools. Clearly, we are doing these children a disservice. It is heartening to see that the department of Education has planned to construct new schools to accommodate learners with special needs and we hope to see that the construction is completed without any of the delays we encounter with the mental health hospital or the Northern Cape Theatre.

We also need to look at ways to accommodate children with disabilities in mainstream schools, where possible and practical. Children on the autism spectrum, who wear cochlear implants or who require assistive devices when walking are not mentally handicapped. We cannot create separate societies for those with disabilities and for those without.

In the Western Cape, 18 Schools of Skills are set up which offer vocational training to those learners who cannot achieve their maximum potential in mainstream schools. The Schools of Skills offer learners an opportunity to develop a variety of practical skills through which a learner can embark on a career and become self-supporting.

Ultimately, the purpose of the education system is to allow each child to reach his or her maximum potential. We must remove any obstacle which prevents any child from enjoying full, fair access to educational opportunities.