PARENTS of learners with disabilities are up in arms over a dilapidated school, accusing the Gauteng Department of Education of failing to fix the crumbling structure over the past five years.
Nokuthula Special School in Corlett Gardens, Johannesburg, has allegedly been built in a wetland while a sinkhole has also emerged in the boys’ hostel.
The roof seems to be falling apart since it was blown off by the storms last year.
Now parents say the situation at the school, which caters for children with special needs, has worsened since it relocated to the area from Marlboro in Alexandra in 2017. Olebogen Rantao, who served two terms as Nokuthula LSEN School Governing Body chairperson, says parents have tried in vain to convince the government to fix the school for the past five years.
This was after they discovered that the school was built in a wetland area, he says. Rantao says a sinkhole had also emerged within the boys’ hostel, sparking fears amongst the parents that their children’s lives were in danger.
“We reported the matter to the department, and they said everything was going to be fixed. The school has so many faults, and no one is willing to fix them. Last year the storm also damaged the building to make things worse, and until today the damages still are still there. The roof is falling, and the facility itself is dangerous to the children,” Rantao said.
“When we came to the new facility, we were happy to think that our children would enjoy it. Now we are afraid to allow the boys to use the hostel because of the poor workmanship and the dilapidated structure. Last year the situation got worse because the storm destroyed some parts of the building and fencing.”
Rantao said all the parents he interacted with about the matter were furious and losing hope in the provincial education department.
He said they even went to the Gauteng Legislature to talk about the matter, but they just made promises, and nothing was done.
Another parent, who did not want to be named, also shared Rantao’s sentiments. She said she confronted the school management about the dilapidated infrastructure, but nothing was done about it.
“Look, the government is not taking us seriously on this matter. Our children are disabled therefore, they deserve to attend their classes in a building that is warm and decent.”
President of the Disabled People South Africa, Patrick Mahlakwakane, has lambasted the government for allegedly dragging its feet when “dealing with issues affecting schools that house disabled pupils.”
“There is no sense of urgency when it comes to matters pertaining to issues of persons with disabilities; the government drags its feet, look at Life Esidemeni, nothing up to now. We are calling on the relevant stakeholders to speed up the process of fixing the school,” said Mahlakwane.
When he was still a DPSA representative in Mpumalanga, just a few months before taking over as the organisation president, Mahlakwane wrote a letter to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) requesting their intervention in the battle to safeguard the future of children with special needs.
Khume Ramulifho, the DA Gauteng’s Shadow MEC for Education in Gauteng, has lambasted the provincial government for failing to fix the school.
“The structure of the school has been made worse by the hailstorm that damaged 12 classrooms last year in December and the heavy rains in February that also damaged the retaining wall of the school. This is a safety risk for both learners and teachers,” Ramulifho said.
Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson Steve Mabona had not yet responded to a request for comment at the time of print.