Observer on Saturday - - News - By Sicelo Maziya

St Joseph’s School, also known as Mz­im­pofu, is crum­bling at an alarm­ing rate and pupils who need the only op­por­tu­nity that is read­ily avail­able for peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­ity might find them­selves with­out a learn­ing fa­cil­ity next year.

The school needs ur­gent at­ten­tion from any per­son that cares about chil­dren and ed­u­ca­tion of peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abilies. The Catholic mis­sion church is an ex­ten­sion of the Eswa­tini com­mu­nity as it pro­vides ser­vices that gov­ern­ment has failed to avail for years.

The gov­ern­ment pro­vided some kind of fund­ing pre­vi­ously but the school needs ren­o­va­tion in or­der for it to re­turn to its pre­vi­ous sta­tus of be­ing a de­cent place fit for hu­man habi­ta­tion.The King­dom of Eswa­tini has been faced with chal­lenges of fund­ing ed­u­ca­tion in the cur­rent year due to the gov­ern­ment’s fis­cal chal­lenges. The min­istry of ed­u­ca­tion has been partly ad­dress­ing the sit­u­a­tion but the spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion has never been ad­dressed in to­tal­ity.

The Ob­server on Satur­day vis­ited the spe­cial school in the past week in a bid to un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion on the ground for those schools re­spon­si­ble for stu­dents with spe­cial needs, which re­sults in them get­ting spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes.

A visit at St Joseph’s showed the dire sit­u­a­tion that needs the gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sec­tor to as­sist in mak­ing the school con­ducive for learn­ing. The School for the Deaf in Siteki is one of the gov­ern­ment schools which has been fac­ing chal­lenges for a long time.

St Joseph’s Pri­mary needs ur­gent at­ten­tion in as­sist­ing pupils who are dom­i­nantly peo­ple with spe­cial needs. The school is fall­ing apart and the ad­min­is­tra­tion block is leak­ing with the lack of a proper drainage sys­tem.

The school, be­ing a mis­sion fa­cil­ity, is one of the old­est schools for peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties. The Head teacher who pre­ferred to be iden­ti­fied only as Mr Cindzi, said they are not al­lowed to talk to the me­dia and, there­fore, could not com­ment on any­thing on is­sues of the school. He, how­ever, con­ceded that the school needs ur­gent at­ten­tion.

In­for­ma­tion sourced is that St Joseph's School is a pub­lic co-ed­u­ca­tional school in ru­ral Eswa­tini. The school is lo­cated on a Catholic mis­sion com­plex run by the Se­vite Or­der (Or­der of Ser­vants of Mary).

The name Mz­im­pofu, which has be­come syn­ony­mous with the school, used is said to have em­anated from the post of­fice at the mis­sion. St Joseph’s is well known in Eswa­tini for be­ing the first school in fos­ter­ing the in­te­gra­tion of ed­u­ca­tion to pupils with dis­abil­i­ties.

St Joseph's School was founded in 1914 by an early catholic mis­sion­ary, Fa­ther Fran­cis Mayr. Fa­ther Mayr founded the mis­sion to care for hand­i­capped and un­der­priv­i­leged peo­ple in the com­mu­nity. The history of the school is a rich one that also in­volves the mother of ed­u­ca­tion in Eswa­tini in Queen Mother Labot­si­beni.

The found­ing Fa­ther Mayr was mur­dered by Fanyana Md­luli in Oc­to­ber 1914, who was later ex­e­cuted as per in­struc­tions of Queen Labot­si­beni.

The school and the mis­sion were un­der the guid­ance of Fa­ther An­gelo 'Nkomiyahlaba' Cic­cone who served as the Vicar of the mis­sion and su­per­vised the de­vel­op­ment of its ser­vices for the hand­i­capped for over 50 years. Fa­ther Cic­cone died in a car ac­ci­dent in 2016.

The school has played a role in as­sist­ing lo­cal hand­i­capped and un­der­priv­i­leged pupils to get de­cent ed­u­ca­tion. In their de­vel­op­ment, the Ob­server on Satur­day learned that the school has in­cluded a number of fa­cil­i­ties that con­trib­ute to the ed­u­ca­tion of dis­abled pupils as well as the com­mu­nity in gen­eral.

The gen­eral ed­u­ca­tional pro­gramme still en­forces the in­te­gra­tion of dis­abled pupils in the pri­mary and se­condary school. The school has a cen­tre of ed­u­ca­tion which also has board­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

The Eku­l­u­la­meni Vo­ca­tional Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre is one of the key train­ing cen­tres that pro­vide train­ing for dis­abled adults. For­merly, the Em­belek­weni pre-school pro­vided care for chil­dren aged zero to five, many of whom had se­vere and mul­ti­ple dis­abil­i­ties.

The school fur­ther has the Zama cen­tre that pro­vides ser­vices for pupils with se­vere in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties. The school also has a re­source cen­tre on cam­pus that pro­vides Braille tran­scrip­tion ser­vices for vis­ually im­paired pupils who are in­te­grated in the pri­mary and se­condary schools.

The school’s sur­vival is through fund­ing for the ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes from the Eswa­tini gov­ern­ment. The school is one of the mon­u­ments that show­case the coun­try’s ef­forts to­wards peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties. The cen­tre needs spe­cial at­ten­tion. SPE­CIAL ED­U­CA­TION

Spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes are de­signed for those pupils who are men­tally, phys­i­cally, so­cially and/or emo­tion­ally de­layed. The as­pect of ‘de­lay,’ broadly cat­e­gorised as a devel­op­men­tal de­lay, sig­ni­fies an as­pect of the child's over­all de­vel­op­ment (phys­i­cal, cog­ni­tive, scholas­tic skills) which places them be­hind their peers. Due to th­ese spe­cial re­quire­ments, pupils’ needs can­not be met within the tra­di­tional class­room en­vi­ron­ment. Spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes and ser­vices adapt con­tent, teach­ing method­ol­ogy and delivery in­struc­tion to meet the ap­pro­pri­ate needs of each child. Th­ese ser­vices are of no cost to the fam­ily and are avail­able to chil­dren un­til they reach 21 years of age, the state has ser­vices in place for adults who are in need of spe­cialised ser­vices after age 21. TYPES OF DIS­ABIL­I­TIES

The um­brella term of spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion broadly iden­ti­fies the aca­demic, phys­i­cal, cog­ni­tive, and so­ciale­mo­tional in­struc­tion of­fered to chil­dren who are faced with one or more dis­abil­i­ties. Dis­abil­i­ties are cat­e­gorised into the fol­low­ing ar­eas:

Autism Spec­trum Dis­or­der refers to a devel­op­men­tal dis­abil­ity that sig­nif­i­cantly af­fects com­mu­ni­ca­tion (both ver­bal and non-ver­bal) and so­cial in­ter­ac­tion. Th­ese symp­toms are typ­i­cally ev­i­dent be­fore the age of three and ad­versely af­fect a child’s ed­u­ca­tional per­for­mance. Other iden­ti­fy­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of those with ASD are en­gage­ment in repet­i­tive ac­tiv­i­ties/stereo­typed move­ments, re­sis­tance to change in en­vi­ron­ment and daily rou­tine and un­usual re­sponses to sen­sory stim­uli.

Deaf-Blind­ness Deaf-blind­ness refers to con­comi­tant vis­ual and hear­ing im­pair­ments. This com­bi­na­tion causes se­vere com­mu­ni­ca­tion, devel­op­men­tal and ed­u­ca­tional needs that can­not be ac­com­mo­dated through spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes solely for those chil­dren with blind­ness or deaf­ness. Deaf­ness/Hear­ing Im­pair­ment Deaf­ness means a child’s hear­ing im­pair­ment is so se­vere that it im­pacts the pro­cess­ing of lin­guis­tic in­for­ma­tion with or with­out am­pli­fi­ca­tion and ad­versely af­fects a child’s ed­u­ca­tional per­for­mance. Hear­ing im­pair­ment refers to an im­pair­ment (fluc­tu­at­ing or per­ma­nent) that ad­versely af­fects a child’s ed­u­ca­tional per­for­mance.

Devel­op­men­tal De­lay Devel­op­men­tal de­lay is a term des­ig­nated for chil­dren from birth to age nine, and is de­fined as a de­lay in one or more of the fol­low­ing ar­eas: cog­ni­tive de­vel­op­ment, phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, so­cio-emo­tional de­vel­op­ment, be­havioural de­vel­op­ment or com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Emo­tional Dis­tur­bance Emo­tional dis­tur­bance refers to a con­di­tion that ex­hibits one or more of the fol­low­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics both over an ex­tended pe­riod of time and to an ex­cep­tional de­gree that ad­versely af­fects a child’s ed­u­ca­tional per­for­mance:

• An in­abil­ity to learn that can­not be ex­plained by in­tel­lec­tual, sen­sory or health fac­tors

• An in­abil­ity to build and/or main­tain sat­is­fac­tory in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with peers and teach­ers

• In­ap­pro­pri­ate types of be­hav­iour or feel­ings un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances

• A gen­eral per­va­sive mood of un­hap­pi­ness/de­pres­sion

• A ten­dency to de­velop phys­i­cal symp­toms or fears associated with per­sonal or school prob­lems

• Emo­tional dis­tur­bance does not ap­ply to chil­dren who are so­cially mal­ad­justed un­less they are de­ter­mined to have an emo­tional dis­tur­bance.

In­tel­lec­tual Dis­abil­ity In­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity is de­fined as a sig­nif­i­cantly be­low av­er­age func­tion­ing of over­all in­tel­li­gence that ex­ists along­side deficits in adap­tive be­hav­iour and is man­i­fested dur­ing the child’s devel­op­men­tal pe­riod, caus­ing ad­verse af­fects on the child’s ed­u­ca­tional per­for­mance.

Mul­ti­ple Dis­abil­i­ties Chil­dren with mul­ti­ple dis­abil­i­ties are those with con­comi­tant im­pair­ments such as in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity and blind­ness or in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity and or­tho­pe­dic im­pair­ment(s). This com­bi­na­tion causes se­vere ed­u­ca­tional needs that can­not be met through pro­grammes de­signed for chil­dren with a sin­gle im­pair­ment.

Spe­cific learn­ing dis­abil­ity refers to a range of dis­or­ders in which one or more ba­sic psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­cesses in­volved in the com­pre­hen­sive/us­age of lan­guage both spo­ken and writ­ten es­tab­lishes an im­pair­ment in one’s abil­ity to lis­ten, think, read, write, spell and/or com­plete math­e­mat­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions. In­cluded are con­di­tions such as per­cep­tual dis­abil­i­ties, dyslexia (also dyscal­cu­lia, dys­graphia), brain in­jury, min­i­mal brain dys­func­tion and devel­op­men­tal apha­sia. Spe­cific learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties do not in­clude learn­ing prob­lems that are the re­sult of vis­ual, au­di­tory or mo­tor dis­abil­i­ties, in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity, emo­tional dis­tur­bance or those who are placed at an en­vi­ron­men­tal/eco­nomic dis­ad­van­tage.

Speech or lan­guage im­pair­ments re­fer to com­mu­ni­ca­tions dis­or­ders such as stut­ter­ing, im­paired ar­tic­u­la­tion or lan­guage/voice im­pair­ments that have an ad­verse ef­fect on a child’s ed­u­ca­tional per­for­mance. TRAU­MATIC BRAIN IN­JURY (TBI)

Trau­matic brain in­jury refers to an ac­quired in­jury to the brain caused by ex­ter­nal phys­i­cal forces. This in­jury is one that re­sults in a par­tial or com­plete func­tional dis­abil­ity and/or psy­choso­cial im­pair­ment and must ad­versely af­fect the child’s ed­u­ca­tional per­for­mance. TBI does not in­clude con­gen­i­tal or de­gen­er­a­tive con­di­tions or those caused by birth-re­lated trauma. TBI ap­plies to in­juries that re­sult in im­pair­ments in one or more of the fol­low­ing ar­eas: cog­ni­tion, lan­guage, mem­ory, at­ten­tion, rea­son­ing, ab­stract think­ing, judg­ment, prob­lem-solv­ing, psy­choso­cial be­hav­iour, phys­i­cal func­tions, in­for­ma­tion pro­cess­ing, and speech. VIS­UAL IM­PAIR­MENT (IN­CLUD­ING BLIND­NESS)

Vis­ual im­pair­ment, which in­cludes blind­ness, refers to im­pair­ment in one’s vi­sion that, even after correction, ad­versely af­fects a child’s ed­u­ca­tional per­for­mance. The term ‘vis­ual im­pair­ment’ is in­clu­sive of those with par­tial sight and blind­ness.

FALL­ING APART: One of the leak­ing roofs at Eku­l­u­la­meni Vo­ca­tional Train­ing Cen­tre at St Joseph’s.

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