Short­ages of work­ers at spe­cial school pose safety risk

The Mercury - - NEWS - Thami Magubane

WITH the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion an­nounc­ing plans to strengthen spe­cial schools, a prin­ci­pal lead­ing one of the schools in the prov­ince has spo­ken of crip­pling staff short­ages that pose a safety risk to pupils.

At her school, one nurse is look­ing af­ter the needs of 420 men­tally and phys­i­cally chal­lenged learn­ers. The pupils have dis­abil­i­ties in­clud­ing blind­ness and paral­y­sis.

The chil­dren, aged be­tween five and 18, suf­fer se­vere in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties, which put their in­tel­lec­tual func­tion­ing at be­tween the ages of one and eight.

The school can­not be named be­cause the prin­ci­pal is not al­lowed to speak to the me­dia with­out the depart­ment’s per­mis­sion.

The rev­e­la­tions of staff va­can­cies at the spe­cial school come af­ter the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment ad­mit­ted it had 2041 posts it could not af­ford to fill.

Tabling his bud­get in the provin­cial leg­is­la­ture recently, Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Mthandeni Dlung­wane said they would be pay­ing at­ten­tion to the needs of the spe­cial schools with re­gard to per­son­nel and in­fra­struc­ture. “We are aware, for ex­am­ple, that some schools ex­pe­ri­ence short­age of Braille and (other) de­vices,” he said.


The prin­ci­pal said the va­can­cies at her school were con­cern­ing.

“We have six class as­sis­tants but we need 26. We have one nurse look­ing af­ter more than 400 learn­ers in­stead of two. We have va­can­cies in clean­ing. We have a va­cancy for a bus driver. All these posts have been frozen.”

She said class as­sis­tants played an im­por­tant role in manag­ing classes. “They as­sist the teacher in do­ing class­work be­cause we give in­di­vid­ual at­ten­tion to our learn­ers.

“They as­sist when a teacher has to at­tend to a sick child and they en­sure adult su­per­vi­sion which is im­por­tant for a safe learn­ing environment.”

The prin­ci­pal, how­ever, said they were for­tu­nate to have a so­cial worker, who played a dual role. The so­cial worker gives coun­selling to the chil­dren in sus­pected cases of abuse and per­forms home vis­its.

“We would love to have a psy­chol­o­gist and therapist, but un­for­tu­nately we don’t have those posts.”

About in­fra­struc­ture, she said: “We need new ramps be­cause the cur­rent ones are not an­gled cor­rectly and learn­ers can­not use them with­out as­sis­tance. We also need sports­fields.”

Depart­ment spokesper­son Sihle Mlotshwa said they were at­tend­ing to the needs at spe­cial schools.

He said they were wait­ing for their di­rec­torates to de­ter­mine the most press­ing needs, and that short­ages of in­fra­struc­ture were be­ing ad­dressed.

“As the MEC stated, we are al­ready do­ing some­thing in the schools where there were short­ages. We will be in­ten­si­fy­ing our efforts when money for this year’s bud­get be­comes avail­able.”­cury TheMer­curySA Mer­cpic TheMer­curySA

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