Limpopo special schools far from ready for full reopening

Image is meant for illustrative purposes. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare

Oversight visits to four specials schools in the province have apparently revealed severe staff shortages, lack of medication, space shortages, and buildings with collapsing ceilings.

Following  oversight visits to four special schools in Limpopo, the DA has launched a plea for urgent attention to the basic hygiene and other needs in these school.

The party in Limpopo says the department of basic education is nowhere near ready to phase in the last cohort of pupils to special schools in the province.

This after the the visits at Siloe School for the Blind, Setotolwane Elsen Secondary School, Rivoni School for the Blind and Yingisani School for Special Education, revealed that the schools do not have the capacity to phase in more special learners, while complying with Covid-19 health and safety regulations.

“All the schools faced similar problems such as unpreparedness to phase in more learners, severe staff shortages, dilapidated infrastructure, and general neglect from the Limpopo Department of Education,” said DA Member of the Limpopo Legislature Katlego Suzan Phala at the weekend.

According to Phala, the Rivoni School for the Blind had no professional nurse, and staff registered their concerns regarding unnecessarily exposing any injured or ill learners to Covid-19, as they would need to go to the hospital for any type of medical attention.

“Rivoni School has also had a vacant social worker post since 2016 and Yingisani School is also short of a social worker. Siloe School for the Blind does not have a social worker, occupational therapist, optometrist and psychologist. It has a nurse that works during the week but the school does not have any pharmaceutical supplies and has resorted to buying medication on its own and is only limited to over the counter products,” she says.

“Setotolwane Secondary does not have a speech therapist, the mobile classes are dilapidated and the ceiling has started to collapse which poses a safety risk to learners.”

Phala said all the schools noted serious concern about not having enough classroom and hostel space to practice social distancing when other learners were phased in, as well as a lack of support from the Limpopo Department of Education in filling vacant posts.

“It was however encouraging to see that all the schools visited had adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hand sanitisers, and the dedicated educators were trying their best to ensure that learners adhere to Covid-19 health and safety regulations despite their many challenges which include a shortage of house mothers and cleaners to clean areas as per the Covid-19 regulations.

On 9 July, the Office of the Premier told the Quality of Life and Status of Women, Youth and Disability committee that special schools which are academic were functioning and ready for the further phasing in of learners.

The department Limpopo undertook to investigate claims by the DA and act decisively on the matter if and when the need arises, pending the outcome of the investigations.

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