School for disabled kids faces big challenges

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Oshakati

A number of professionals in the education sector feel there is a need to expand Eluwa Special School to cater for children with multiple disabilities.

Officials from the Ministry of Health and Social Services involved in the welfare of people with disabilities say the majority of people with disabilities are left to languish at home, because there are no institutions to cater for their special needs.

Currently Eluwa Special School only accommodates children with hearing and visual impairment disabilities, although it does incorporate some children with multiple disabilities from pre-primary to grade ten.

Stakeholders feel the expansion of the school will reduce the number of uneducated people with disabilities in the community. At present the majority of people with other disabilities (with the exception of the hearing and visually impaired) are not admitted to the school because the institution does not have the necessary infrastructure or staff capacity to cater for their needs.

“We receive quite a number of applications but, because we do not have the knowledge of how to work with these children, we turn them away and as a result these children are just at home,” Ndinelago Nangolo, the acting principal at the school explained.

The sorry situation came to light during a familiarisation visit to the Oshana Region by Alexia Manombe Ncube, the Deputy Minister responsible for Disability Affairs.

Eluwa School currently has 341 learners, of whom 248 are hearing-impaired, while 93 are visually impaired.

Although the children at the school are performing exceptionally well, insufficient teaching aids are a pressing concern for teachers and learners.

“There is no equipment to assist the learners and the lack of appropriate resources in braille and sign language is hampering delivery of quality teaching,” Nangolo said.

Nangolo said the school is in need of specialised teaching materials to cater for the needs of the children. She added that in many cases there are no sign language symbols for some of the terms and illustrations.

“We strongly need a science lab with appropriate apparatuses, suitable for both the hearing and visually impaired,” Nangolo said. Learners at the school were also dismayed by the fact that they find it difficult to communicate in society, which makes it even harder for them to find jobs once they have passed grade ten, due to existing communication barriers.

In addition, learners say they look forward to a day when they will have nurses and doctors who can understand sign language, because at times there are no interpreters in the consultation rooms to assist them.

The Deputy Minister in the Presidency in Office of the Vice-President responsible for Disability Affairs assured the learners that her office is hard at work to ensure that people with disabilities are included in all spheres of development.

She said her mandate in the office is to ensure that each ministry factors in the concerns and needs of people with disabilities.

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