Deputy minister stands up for disabled kids

Mayoral committee member for area east, Anda Ntsodo, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and the Deputy Minister of Social Development Ipeleng Bogopane-Zulu hand over a computer lab to Noluthando School for the Deaf.

Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ipeleng Bogopane-Zulu, has slammed the exclusion of disabled pupils by some schools in the province.

She was responding to reports from some of the parents at Noluthando School for the Deaf, during the launch of a computer lab, on Wednesday November 29.

The lab, an MTN initiative, has 21 computers, as well as an interactive whiteboard.

Premier Helen Zille also attended the launch.

During a heated discussion at the school,before the opening of the lab, parents claimed some schools turned away disabled pupils, particularly those with autism.

Parents told her how their children were ill -reated and excluded from schools.

In some instances, they said, they were put on long waiting lists. They appealed to the national government to intervene.

Disheartened parent, Nolubabalo Mbola, said her 14-year-old son sat at home after he was rejected by various schools.

“I could not get a school for him. I started taking him to schools at the age of six, but now he is 14 without a school. I was lucky with his sister (who is also autistic) because she is at school. These are just some of the challenges we face as parents of autistic children,” she said.

A livid Ms Bogopane-Zulu sent out a stern warning to the schools and promised to investigate. She said every child should be at school by March 2018.

She added that the schools should have programmes for all the children.

“Autistic children have a right to be at school, creche or in Early Childhood Development centres.

The school cannot say the doctor must apply for your child.” Ms Bogopane-Zulu added that children were vulnerable to abuse. She stressed a need for a safe environment where they could be protected.

“Autistic children need to be secured and safe. They and deaf children can be raped and abused. We cannot allow any situation where they are not cared for,” she said. Ms Bogopane-Zulu urged parents to consider starting ECDs for autistic children.

She added that the government could train the staff and fund the establishments.

“Empowered parents make empowered decisions. You have numbers. Support each other and open something. Let us develop what children can do. Let us start crèches,” she encouraged the parents.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu promised to personally deal with the matter.

Human Rights Commissioner responsible for disabled children, Angie Makwetla, also slammed the schools that exclude disabled pupils. She said excluding them from education means that they will not have the rights that other children have.