By Dr Tutu Faleni (MPL), DA North West Education Spokesperson:
The Democratic Alliance in the North West will today write to the Education MEC, Wendy Matsemela, requesting that she informs the public without delay of the time-frame for the investigation into the fire that resulted in the death of three learners at Leeudoringstad.
The delays in the investigation and lack of communication from the Department of Education with the grieving families only prolongs their suffering as they are unable to achieve any sense of closure into the matter.
Although nothing can heal the loss of a child; the DA is of the view that a conclusion of the investigation will help bring a sense of closure to the families of the victims and help with the healing process, when the true cause of the tragedy is exposed.
The DA requests the Education Department to ensure that schools for special needs learners are equipped with proper equipment to ensure a safe learning environment. Failure to do so is death sentence for our vulnerable children.
The North West School for the deaf in Leeudoringstad did not have fire detectors which are customised to alert deaf learners in a case of fire. The school should be fitted with flickering lights which would shine repeatedly in case of an emergency.
The school receives a monthly budget allocation of R350 000 from the North West Education Department. Such equipment could be paid for from this allocation or from the Department’s capital budget. The Department has a responsibility to guide the school on utilization of expenditure so that the school responds to its peculiar needs.
The DA has in the past made a call for more measures to be taken, this after four boys lost their lives when their school caught fire at Christiana School for the Blind in 2010 and unfortunately no action was taken despite numerous requests from the DA.
The Education Department owes the families of the deceased the truth of what really happened.
This investigation cannot simply be open ended, but needs to conclude to give the families the closure they need.
It is vital that in a democratic country, that facilities be built to protect learners with disabilities to ensure that they also get access to quality education that can open doors to opportunities.