The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Limpopo said it had on Tuesday filed a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission against the Limpopo department of education for the alleged neglect of six special schools in the province where the party discovered classrooms and hostels on the “verge of collapsing due to a lack of maintenance”.
The party’s Katlego Phala said they had discovered appalling conditions in their oversight visits.
“At the Rivoni School for the Blind situated in Elim outside Makhado, the hostels are overcrowded and learners are sleeping on double bunker beds with only one washing machine at their disposal. The school does not have Braille machines to accommodate all the learners and there is only one teacher and one head of department (HOD) who also acts as the deputy principal.
Phala said no nurses, social workers or psychologists visited the school to assess learners progress on a weekly basis.
“Most classes are held in a mobile container and all learners use a mobile toilet, which has a damaged floor and pavement that poses a danger, considering that all learners are either blind or partially blind.”
She said the Tshilwavhusiku Razwimisani Special School in Ravele Village, also in Makhado and which caters for 218 intellectually impaired learners, had no scholar transport available.
“The school has no practical rooms for welding and carpentry and all their classes are held outside, which is especially challenging during rainy days and in winter.”
She said the Yingisani Special school in Nkowankowa outside Tzaneen had 163 learners who were deaf, including those with multiple disabilities and mental illness, but “all the teachers are only trained to deal with deaf learners and it becomes difficult to deal with those that are physically disabled and mentally ill”.
She said they found no adequate resources such as classrooms, tables, and chairs.
“The school does not have speech therapists and scholar transport, and not enough teachers.”
The Letaba Primary Special School in Tzaneen had 161 learners but no physiotherapist and not enough wheelchairs and special shoes. “The school has broken washing machines and, during an oversight, we noted that there was unwashed laundry that apparently could not be washed for a month.”
Phala said the school had managed to purchase an 8kg top loader washing machine but staff indicated that it would not alleviate the burden and it would take a month or two to get all the clothes washed.
The Sedibeng School for the deaf in Lephalale had no drainage and the hostels filled up with water during the rainy season, while the Thusanang Special School in Leseding, outside Bela Bela, had its bus and vehicles taken away by the department of education, allegedly without any explanation.
“The newly built boys’ hostel in Thusanang could collapse any day, which forced teachers to accommodate boys and girls in one hostel.”
The department had not visited the school to officially open the hostels, she further alleged.
“Many learners from Modimolle who cannot afford private transport have to stay home due to no scholar transport being provided by the school or department. It is totally unacceptable for the department to neglect these schools considering the amount of money being returned to the National Treasury on a yearly basis due to underspending.”
She said they had written a deadline letter to education MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe and would further push for an urgent debate in the provincial legislature on the state of special schools to seek immediate interventions.