Shortages of workers at special school pose safety risk
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.”