THINGS FALL APART AT ST. JOSEPH’S
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.