Department sits idle as teachers at Special Needs school work 24 hour shifts

By Sonja Boshoff, MP, DA Member on Basic Education Portfolio Committee:

Mpumalanga Education MEC, Reginah Mhaule must urgently intervene at Estralita School for Special Needs Education where housekeeping staff have abandoned their duties following a dispute over working hours and salary overpayments.

As a result, teachers have been forced to work their ordinary teaching hours during the day and then take over all housekeeping duties at the hostel during the night. In a letter received by the department of Education, teachers appealed to the department to resolve the matter as the limited number of teachers meant that one teacher was expected to look after 86 female and 69 male learners throughout the night. Some of these learners are severely impaired and require specialised care.

The teachers also raised concerns that physical and sexual assaults on learners could become a problem because of the lack of supervision. Estralita is one of the few special needs school in the province with boarding facilities and has an intake of children of all ages.

At 725, Mpumalanga has the second highest number of special needs children in the country who are waiting to be accommodated in specialised schools. The situation at Estralita affects not only the learners currently enrolled at the school but all special needs children in the province because it creates another barrier that denies them quality education.

No learners, especially those with disabilities, should be denied access to a quality education and the subsequent opportunities that this provides. MEC Mhaule must restore order at Estralita because aside from the fact that teachers now work 24 hour cycles, it is the children who suffer most.