The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education has urged the government of KwaZulu-Natal to enhance support for special needs schools to protect and promote the constitutional right to education.
The committee made the call following a visit to various schools in the King Cetshwayo District, as part of its weeklong oversight programme in the province.
Committee Chairperson, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, said while the committee commends the support provided by the province to schools with special needs, gaps remain and need to be filled with urgency.
“Interventions such as the provision of specialist support staff, such as educational psychologists and specialist nurses to these schools is necessary to ensure adequate care, and curriculum delivery is critical and should be enhanced urgently.
“The shortage of support staff is an impediment preventing quality learning and teaching at these schools. Also, the district-based support specific to these schools is lacking, as most of the current staff are not equipped to cater for the needs of these students,” Mbinqo-Gigaba said.
The committee recommended budget increases for assisting devices and modified transportation, which it said must be high on the department’s list of considerations.
The committee underscored the need to collaborate with the Department of Employment and Labour to enable the absorption of learners in sheltered employment factories to enable learners with special needs to live meaningful lives with gainful employment.
It also commended collaboration with private companies that have shown a willingness to employ learners from special needs schools following assessment.
Focus on critical subjects
Meanwhile, the committee has called for a focus on critical subjects, including Mathematics and Physical Science, noting that this will ensure the system produces “dynamic learners who are able to respond to the needs of a contemporary economy”.
“The committee remains concerned that there is a low uptake of and achievement in these critical subjects and has called for strategies to address concerns about the low pass rates in these subjects. Despite these concerns, the committee is encouraged by the assurance that strategies are in place at school level to improve performance in those subjects.
“The committee reemphasised its praise for the 83% National Senior Certificate pass rate in KwaZulu-Natal, an increase of 6.2%, the highest increase in the country. With enhanced focus on critical subjects, the province has the potential to achieve even higher results,” the chairperson said.
As witnessed in the Zululand District, the stakeholders in King Cetshwayo also shared their concerns about the lack of transport for learners and called for an urgent resolution of the transport challenges in the province.
“The lack of quality transport for leaners, with some as young as six years hitch-hiking to school, is detrimental to the desired outcome of the right to education for every leaner. The lack of transport also affects learning and teaching,” Mbinqo-Gigaba said.
Source: South African Government News Agency