More than 2000 disabled children in the Eastern Cape are out of school due to the shortage of special needs schools in the province, writes Areta Linden.
Currently, there are 45 special needs schools in the province.
The department of education has confirmed that 2160 disabled children are on a waiting list.
Nationally, the number of disabled children waiting to be placed at special schools, stands at just over 11000.
Spokesman for the Department Loyiso Pulumani blamed this challenge on the size and historical geographical disparities of the province.
Pulumani said: “The Eastern Cape is a huge province with historical and geographical challenges. Therefore, there are few schools to meet the high demand of pupils with disabilities and barriers. Most of these [special needs] schools are located in cities like East London and Port Elizabeth. However, there has also been progressive strides to increase schools throughout the province, geographically.”
Eastern Cape chairman for Disabled People South Africa (DPSA) Vuyo Nguboayihlangani said education did not come easy for disabled South Africans, who, as a result, felt discriminated against.
“It’s a struggle. First we go through a lengthy process of being assessed by a physiologist, and only after getting an approval from the psychologist, do you get to be on the waiting list.
“Some disabled children grow old without going to school and some start school at an older age, such as seven or 11 years,” said Nguboayihlangani.
Pulumani said that in an attempt to speed up the process of placing disabled children at school, the department had in the last financial year recruited 69 district-based physiologists and therapists.
Pulumani said four more special needs schools would come into operation in the current financial year.
“To reduce the long waiting list, Parklands and Khayalethu specials schools received additional temporary classrooms and other resources to accommodate an additional 14 disabled and 21 autistic pupils respectively,” he said.
Pulumani said the department was in the process of adopting 30 schools, where disabled pupils could be accommodated.
However, Nguboayihlangani said they were not calling for more special schools but were calling for inclusive education.