A young mother’s dogged fight to get her seven-year-old blind daughter a good education has not delivered any results.
Port Elizabeth’s Simnikiwe Vappie, 30, has travelled the length and breadth of the country in search of a good school for her first-born child Uvusiwe, who weighed a meagre 800g at birth. Vappie had been just 26 weeks pregnant.
“I think her retina was underdeveloped because of this and she was lucky to make it.
“Uvusiwe is a lively, happy child who likes to talk to others,” said Vappie, slightly disheartened but still determined to find her daughter a school.
Vappie, of Kwazakhele, says Khanyisa School for the Blind in KwaDwesi was not an option, as she had concerns about alleged incidents of abuse at the school.
Vappie, who works as an admin assistant at a courier firm, has been to the Western Cape and Pietermaritzburg in her three-year quest to find a reputable school.
Vappie also approached the national Education Department for help, but with little success.
“I want my child to learn in English and Afrikaans and Khanyisa will not offer what I want for her. We all know that you need these languages in order to have better opportunities. Uvusiwe has been in mainstream creches and playschools for most of her life, but now it’s time for her to start Grade 1 and my not finding a suitable school for her is stressful,” Vappie said.
“We went to Pioneer School for the Visually Impaired in Worcester last year.
“Our hopes were raised that Uvusiwe would be accepted, but I got an e-mail telling me my child would not be admitted because the school only accepted English and Afrikaans speaking pupils.”
Pioneer principal Paul Greyling denied that the school had rejected Uvusiwe’s application. Instead, the school recommended that Uvusiwe be taken to a speech therapist to improve her English.
“We are an English and Afrikaans medium school and do not have Xhosa teachers.
“It was suggested to Uvusiwe’s mother that she take the child to Athlone or Khanyisa,” Greyling said.
Chairwoman of the Eastern Cape branch of the Retina Foundation Gail Cillie said Uvusiwe was among countless other visually impaired youngsters who were fighting a losing battle to become part of the mainstream education system.
“The department needs to know there are people like me and others who can train teachers at mainstream schools on how to integrate children who are visually impaired.”