Mainstream schools to be converted for special needs children

While 2,1 million children in the country live with disabilities, 600,000 don’t attend school.

Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities says while 2,1 million children in the country live with disabilities, 600, 000 of them don't go to school.

It says there simply aren't enough special needs schools and mainstream schools can't adequately cater for children with disabilities.

The NGO adds widespread stereotypes, stigmas and a lack of awareness are also plaguing scores of families with special needs children.

But the Gauteng Basic Education Department say this is being prioritised.

The department says 12 mainstream schools in the province will be converted to accommodate children with disabilities next year.


Wendy Tokwe from Orange Farm says her life changed completely in 2008 when her sister passed away and she started taking care of her sibling's three children, one of whom has cerebral palsy.

She resigned as a teacher to take care of Iviwe, who is now 11, because there is no disability centre in the area.

The boy's father abandoned his family after he was born with a disability.

Tokwe says a disability grant of R1,400 is not enough to look after the child's special needs.

"I have to pay rent, buy nappies, and it is not only Iviwe. There are three orphans."

She says people in the community also reject her and Iviwe, with her neighbour even slapping the child.

"I am feeling angry but I have to keep myself together."

Social worker Elizabeth Mangwende says most of the people she deals with in Orange Farm complain about the community rejecting disabled children.

She says in some instances, parents lock up their children as they are not in school, leaving them alone for hours.

"Some parents have not accepted that their children have disabilities. They'll lock them up and go to work."

WATCH: Breaking the silence: Teaching deaf children to speak

To read EWN's special report on disability, click here.