Special needs school still not open – nine months after the ribbon was cut

24 July 2018 - 16:02
By Penwell Dlamini
The Nokuthula School for Learners with Special Educational Needs stands dormant in Lyndhurst, Johannesburg.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu/The Sowetan The Nokuthula School for Learners with Special Educational Needs stands dormant in Lyndhurst, Johannesburg.

In October last year‚ Gauteng Premier David Makhura opened the Nokuthula LSEN School in Lyndhurst‚ Johannesburg. Parents of children with special needs were excited as‚ finally‚ their kids would get an opportunity to learn at an institution with infrastructure suited to their needs.

But fast forward to July 2018‚ and the R300-million school Makhura opened is still idling there‚ and children with special needs are still using a lesser facility in Alexandra.

The deadline for the school to finally start teaching and learning has not been set at September 1‚ the Gauteng education department has now said.

The school caters for learners ranging from ages 3 to 18; those with severe intellectual and physical disabilities. It has libraries‚ computer labs‚ netball and tennis courts‚ athletics tracks‚ a soccer and rugby field‚ and an indoor pool.

In June the Gauteng portfolio committee on infrastructure development expressed its concern about the fact that the school had not been opened because of an occupancy certificate which had not been issued. A day later‚ Gauteng MEC of infrastructure development Jacob Mamabolo told TimesLIVE that the school would be occupied in the second semester of 2018.

He said the occupancy certificate had been resolved and the children would move into the school in the second semester.

On Tuesday‚ TimesLIVE joined DA MPL Khume Ramulifho‚ who visited the empty school.

“We were told that the school would be opened this term. I thought that‚ last week‚ learners were being relocated to come here. Unfortunately that is not the case. We are disappointed that the promise that was made has not been kept.

“We can’t waste a lot of resources investing in a facility to benefit more learners and then they don’t enjoy the benefits of the facility while taxpayers’ money has been spent‚” said Ramulifho.

In response the Gauteng department of education admitted that there were delays in obtaining the occupational certificate from the City of Johannesburg.

“However‚ we can confirm that the said document was ultimately issued accordingly. For the department to facilitate a seamless relocation process‚ we have finalised a relocation plan‚” said department spokesperson Steve Mabona.

He added that the school would cater for the following special needs:

  • severe intellectual disability;
  • mild intellectual disability;
  • autistic spectrum disorder;
  • deaf and hard of hearing; and
  • blind and visually impaired.

“These needs dictate that the department must be sensitive to the kind of learners involved in the entire process and‚ as such‚ it is paramount for officials to be cautious and not rush the move‚ which might be detrimental to the wellbeing of the affected learners.

“The relocation plan‚ among others‚ focuses on classroom allocation‚ verification of equipment and furniture‚ learner orientation (which is key for learners with special needs)‚ as well as viewing of the school by all stakeholders. Taking in cognisance of all critical activities to be undertaken‚ the anticipated official occupation will be on 1 September 2018‚” Mabona said.