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DA Limpopo Spokesperson on Quality of Life and Status of Women, Youth and Disability, Katlego Phala in one of the messy hostels at Rehlahleng Special School.

Learners with special needs exposed to harsh conditions

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Learners enrolled at Rehlahleng Special School in Ga-Mampuru village are forced to attend lessons in dilapidated classrooms and use unhygienic ablution facilities due the Department of Education’s alleged failure to refurbish the facilities.
The allegations were made by the Democratic Alliance (DA) Limpopo Spokesperson on Quality of Life and Status of Women, Youth and Disability, Katlego Phala following an oversight visit at the institution last Thursday. She said the party was deeply concerned by the poor and inappropriate conditions learners are being exposed at the institution which is situated within the Fetakgomo-Tubatse Local Municipality. The school reportedly caters for 148 learners this year and due to a lack of space the school has had to turn away 22 candidates since last Monday.
According to Phala, the institution has two blocks of classrooms built by a nearby mining company and these are insufficient. Fifty Grade R learners are also being accommodated in a corrugated iron container structure with no air conditioning, she alleged. Phala went on to claim that the school currently has inappropriate sanitation, no proper wall around the facilities and no showers as learners are forced to use plastic containers to bath.

Learners are forced to attend lessons in zinc classrooms with broken windows.

“In the 2018 Special Schools report submitted to the portfolio committee on Quality of Life and Status of Women, Youth and Disability by the Office of the Premier indicated that the school was meant to get 10 posts that would have been filled by the end of the 2018/19 financial year. These posts included a professional nurse, social worker, house parents, security guard and a cook. To date only the cook’s post has been filled. Rehlahleng Special School is also in a dire need of more educators and assistants but may actually lose one more as the Department of Education is not renewing the educator’s contract,” Phala explained.
He further emphasised that security was a major concern at the school as it was broken into and laptops were stolen last year. A male intruder attempted to enter rooms where learners and those who volunteer as house mothers were sleeping in, he added. Phala concluded by saying the party wrote to Premier Stan Mathabatha on Monday asking that he visit the school to witness the harsh conditions these vulnerable learners are faced with.
Department of Education Spokesperson Sam Makondo acknowledged the conditions experienced at the school as he mentioned that they were aware and that is why the institution is part of the schools which will be benefiting from an intended injection starting this financial year. He highlighted that the department will be constructing seven toilets and refurbishing six others and reiterated that the school will also be incorporated into nearby Asiphumelele Special School which was pronounced in the department’s budget vote.
“In the meantime we directed our Infrastructure Unit to establish further facts with a view of providing mobile classrooms as a temporary measure as we look into a permanent solution. So there is no issue which is not receiving our attention. All these are processes which we are following so that at the end of the day learners get what they deserve,” Makondo concluded.
Provincial Government Spokesperson Kenny Mathivha indicated that if the letter has indeed been forwarded to the Office of the Premier, it will be looked into and the issues raised will be given the necessary attention they deserve. He further said the provincial government was thankful that opposition parties such as the DA were working together with the ruling party to identify challenges that need attention in Limpopo.

Story: ENDY SENYATSI
>>endy@observer.co.za