Special education need school still falling apart

Parents of pupils with disabilities are up in arms over the dangerous conditions under which their children learn at the what was supposed to be a state-of-the art school that cost the taxpayer R300-million to build.

The roof at Nokuthula School for Learners with Special Education Needs (LSEN) in Corlett Gardens, Johannesburg, is falling apart since it was blown off by the storms last year. The school has been mired in controversy over shoddy workmanship, infrastructure deficiencies and inadequate resources since it opened its doors in 2017.

Olebogen Rantao, who served two terms as Nokuthula LSEN school governing body chairperson, said parents tried in vain to convince the government to fix the school for the past five years.

This was after they discovered that the school was built on a wetland area, he said. Rantao said a sink-hole had also emerged within the boys’ hostel, sparking fears amongst the parents that their children’s lives are in danger.

“We reported the matter to the department and they said everything was going to be fixed. The school has so many faults and no one is willing to fix them. Last year the storm also damaged the building to make things worse and until today the damages are still there. The roof is falling, and the facility itself is dangerous to the children,” Rantao said.

“When we came to the new facility we were happy thinking that our children will enjoy it. Now we are afraid to allow the boys to use the hostel because of the poor workmanship and the dilapidated structure. He said they even went to the Gauteng legislature to talk about the matter, but they just made promises and nothing has been done. Another parent, who did not want to be named, also shared Rantao’s sentiments. She said she confronted the school management about the dilapidated infrastructure but nothing was done about it.

“The government is not taking us seriously on this matter. Our children are disabled, therefore, they deserve to attend their classes in a building that is warm and decent.” President of the Disabled People South Africa, Patrick Mahlakwakane, has lambasted the government for allegedly dragging its feet when dealing with issues affecting schools that house disabled pupils.

“There is no sense of urgency when it comes to matters pertaining to issues of persons with disabilities, the government drags its feet, look at Life Esidemeni. We are calling on the relevant stakeholders to speed up the process of fixing the school,” said Mahlakwakane.

When he was still a DPSA representative in Mpumalanga, just a few months before taking over as the organisation president, Mahlakwane wrote a letter to the South African Human Rights Commission requesting their intervention in the battle to safeguard the future of children with special needs.

The DA’s Khume Ramulifho has lambasted the provincial government for failing to fix the school. “The structure of the school has been made worse by the hailstorm that damaged 12 classrooms last year in December and the heavy rains in February that also damaged the wall of the school.

“This is a safety risk for both learners and teachers,” Ramulifho said. Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona had not yet responded to a request for comment at the time of going to print.

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