The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education has raised concerns about the management of special schools in Mpumalanga. The Committee believes that the Mpumalanga Department of Education has not done enough to ensure that these schools function well.

This came after the committee visited several special schools, including Tsakane Special School in Bushbuckridge. The committee urged the department to step up its game when it comes to special schools.

The committee stressed the importance of appointing qualified teachers for special schools. The committee did not recommend appointing regular teachers to teach students with disabilities.

Committee chairwoman Bongiwe Mbinga-Gigabo says such schools cater to people with various disabilities, so they need to be resourced with capable teachers with relevant skills.

“The staffing of these schools, in our opinion, requires resources and you have a therapist, you only have one physical therapist who has to deal with every child that is there, you have 208 students. We know that it is very rare that you will find that they specialize in the disabled, but at the very least they should be certified to work with such children. You can’t take me, I wouldn’t know how to deal with those, you can’t just take someone fresh out of teacher training college to deal with kids like that,” says Mbinga-Gigabo.

The focus was on crumbling infrastructure, teaching and learning, the school feeding program, and student transportation. Residents and parents in all districts raised various issues, from school infrastructure to lack of security in schools.

The committee also visited schools affected by the storm. Sidlamaf Secondary School in Nkamazi is one of the schools whose roof was blown off by a storm in 2018. The school now has mobile classrooms.

“The problem was the infrastructure we have. As you remember last time it was blown up by a storm and thanks to the department that was able to provide us with mobile classrooms and we hope that very soon they will start the second phase of demolishing the building and building a new school,” says SGB chairman Patrick Radebe.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education in Mpumalanga has acknowledged the concerns raised by the parliamentary committee and has committed to addressing some of the issues.

“These are the areas that we as a department prioritize. Indeed, they brought us in as a department where the MEC and I presented our program in this particular area and also presented our plans. The problems they have identified in most cases are not something we are not aware of and we have plans in place to address them,” says department manager Lucy Moyane.

The portfolio committee has completed its visits to all nine provinces.

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