Learners with disabilities are being sidelined in Mpumalanga

By Jane Sithole MPL, DA Spokesperson on Women, Youth, Children and Persons with Disabilities:

The following debate was delivered by DA Spokesperson on Women, Youth, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Jane Sithole MPL, during a sitting on questions for oral reply to the MEC’s at Ehlanzeni District Council Chambers.

Honourable Speaker.

Mpumalanga has 19 schools that cater for learners with disabilities and over 3 682 learners with mild to severe learning disabilities.

Hon. Speaker it is very disturbing that all schools that cater for children with learning and physical disabilities in Mpumalanga currently have long waiting lists. A mother in Bethal has been struggling since 2013 to find a school for her disabled child due to severe shortages of schools for children with disabilities in our province.

At the end of the day, this mother has no choice but to keep her child at home. Hon. Speaker, this learner and many other learners in our province lose out on years of development which is vital for them to function in society.

Hon. Speaker in 2014, the department of education opened a new school called Tsakane for learners with special needs in Bushbuckridge, as we speak, this school already has a long waiting list.

What is even more concerning is the fact that the department only managed to spend 65% of the budget allocated for special need schools infrastructure in the last academic year. With such a desperate need from these parents and their children, how does the department fail to spend money allocated for this purpose?

Hon. Speaker, may I remind this house that in the last three financial years, learners with disabilities lost over R27 million due to the department’s underspending or re-allocating their budget to other programmes in the department.

A learner with a disability has the same rights as all other learners, their right to education should also be prioritised in order for them to reach their full potential.

Like Nelson Mandela once said “it is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of a farm worker can become the president”

I thank you.