Department accused of dragging its feet on school placements

“My child has autism and the two greatest challenges we’ve had are finding a school for him and understanding him,” Thandi Majoka said.

“I guess we don’t always understand him because he hasn’t gone for the correct treatment as much as he should have.”

Majoka is one of the thousands of parents who are desperately looking for a school for their special needs children. She says what is very frustrating is the red tape parents encounter, even when they find a school that can accommodate their child.

“I recently went to Sunshine School [in Uitenhage] to try and get a place for him.

“There they told me they definitely had space but that I had to go to the Department of Education.

“That is apparently the right channel to go through when applying for a school for your child.”

But, Majoka said, the department “has just put me on hold, so I had to send him back to his initial creche”.

She said that on January 10, a day before schools were due to open, she went to the department’s district office where she explained her problem.

She was asked to fill in forms and provide her ID document while her child’s birth certificate and clinic cards were all taken and copies made.

She was then told she would be contacted as soon as everything was processed.

“To this day, I am still waiting for their response,” Majoka said.

“I’m worried because at creche they say he is aggressive and they sometimes fail to understand him. ”

Majoka said she knew of about 10 other parents who were facing similar challenges in accessing special needs schools.

“Our children now have to go to mainstream schools where they do not get the attention they need.

“Some of the parents I know have applied at Quest School and are also still on the waiting list.”

Portia Citwa says she too is finding it a challenge to find a school for her autistic 10-year-old son.

“When we first started attending therapy sessions I was told I could send him to a mainstream school to get him used to being around other children. Then I was told about a creche which had a woman specialising in taking care of kids with special needs, so I sent him there.

“A month later I was told to fetch him because they sometimes could not control him.

“I’ve applied at Sunshine School and was told to go to the Department of Education. “I am still waiting,” Citwa said. Education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima failed to respond to a number of questions sent to him on Wednesday.

He was asked why the department had not, in almost two months, responded to requests to place children in schools where space was available

Another question was what processes should be followed by parents wanting to have their children placed.

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