DA Mpumalanga’s persistence and perseverance has finally paid off as the Mpumalanga Provincial Government finally acted and partially solved some of the challenges faced by learners and teachers of Masinakane Special School.
Teachers and learners of Masinakane special school, a school that caters for learners with disabilities (ranging from mild to severe and physical disabilities) who are intellectual disable, have been struggling with decent boarding facilities since 2008, when these learners were housed in a dilapidated boarding house. They were then moved into their mobile classrooms due to the boarding school being declared unsafe for living.
The DA has been trying for years to bring to the attention of the provincial government, including Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane and Education MEC Bonakele Majuba, the plight faced by the learners and teachers at this special needs school. But we were ignored until 2021 when we approached the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to intervene. The DA went as far as inviting the SAHRC to visit the school with us last year to see for themselves the condition these learners were living under.
The DA raised the following issues with the SAHRC:
- Learners at the school are subjected to atrocious conditions, in that they sleep in classrooms with no ablution facilities to be used at night.
- The school does not have a hostel.
- Since the Covid-19 outbreak, only 31 of the 154 learners have been attending school, and the other 124 were confined at home without supervision simply because the Department of Education had not yet provided any facilities for them.
The DA is happy to announce that our 2022 visit to the school with the SAHRC has paid off. In our follow up visit to the school this month, we found that Hostel facilities were built for the male learners with proper fencing for security. We were also informed that the provincial government is in the plenary process of constructing Administration and Psychologist rooms.
The DA welcomes the progress and positive development from the provincial government, but we are still concerned about the female learners who are still using classrooms as their boarding rooms without ablution facilities. They still use the outside (mobile) toilets even at night.
The DA will not stop engaging the provincial government until fully-fledged boarding and ablution facilities are built for all the 127 learners that are currently enrolled at the school.
Another challenge raised by management and the SGB of the school, which the DA fully supports, was the issue of the 21-hostel staff. The school is currently spending R63 000 a month to compensate the 21 hostel-staff employees (R3000 each per month), which will not be sustainable in the long run. The provincial department of education must consider putting these hostel staff on their payroll to ease financial responsibilities of the struggling school. Only the 15 educators at the school are under the payroll of the department, not other staff members. Learners with special needs need 24-hour supervision, therefore, it doesn’t make sense for the department to build a hostel, but not pay hostel caretakers who look after these children. The DA has submitted oral questions to the MEC of Education, Bonakele Majuba, in regard to this.
The DA will never abandon the learners and teachers of Masinakane Special School. We will walk with them hand in hand until all their challenges are taken seriously and addressed. We will continue engaging the provincial department of education constructively to address problems and challenges faced by schools that accommodate learners with special needs in Mpumalanga, not just Masinakane Special School alone.