South Africa: Support to Special Schools must Bbe Improved

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education has urged both the national and provincial departments of Basic Education to reinforce support to special schools, in order to ensure the quality of education within the sector.

The committee, which is on a week-long oversight visit to the North West Province, visited the PH Moeketsi Agricultural High School and the Christiana School for the Blind and Partially Sighted. The commitment to quality teaching and learning shown by management in both schools is to be applauded, especially in light of the constraints they are operating under.

At PH Moeketsi, the committee raised its concern that some of the agricultural subjects are not offered in English, forcing learners to be taught in Afrikaans, which is their third language. It is unacceptable that learners are compelled to study in a language not of their choosing, 24 years into a democratic dispensation. The process to first translate the book eats into the time that could be used for teaching and learning,rdquo; said Ms Nomalungelo Gina, the Chairperson of the committee.

Cutting the school’s budget must also be reconsidered. As it is the department that introduced the specialist school, it follows that the school must receive the funding necessary to produce quality results.

The committee emphasised that the department must look into the feasibility of procuring land that the school needs so that learners can practice what they are taught in class. Coupled with this is the need to ensure that there is adequate access to water at the school. Despite all the challenges, the committee was impressed with the overall matric pass rate in both schools, and has urged for more improved performance in this year’s final exams.

The lack of Braille text books at the Christiana school for the Blind is a red flag that needs urgent attention. The committee acknowledged that the Department of Basic Education and the provincial MECs are committed to a plan to procure textbooks to remedy the shortage, especially in the foundation phase and in Setswana. The committee will monitor the implementation of the plan, as outlined by the department.

The committee has urged the department to review the school’s organogram and make provision for the specialised professionals that the school needs to ensure quality provision of education. The school highlighted that they need an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist and household aid care and support. These are critical positions in the school and must be urgently attended to.

The provincial government must assist the school to make their inclusive education plans a reality and lessen the burden that the school carries, especially in the conversion of learner teacher support material into Braille. Also, the procurement of assistive technology should not be the sole responsibility of the school.

The committee will continue to monitor the implementation of commitments made by both the provincial and national departments in assisting the schools. The visits to schools continue today in the Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati district.

Source: Republic of South Africa: The Parliament