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SAHRC monitors building of deaf and blind school in Mpumalanga

28 May 2023

The South African Human Rights Commission SAHRC has vowed to keep a close eye on the construction of a residential school for children with disabilities in Mpumalanga. This after revelations that the provincial government was spending Rhmillion to rent boarding facilities for the deaf and blind pupils. The commission has raised concerns about the lack of such schools in the province, which forced it to launch its own probe into the matter last year. According to the Democratic Alliance DA in Mpumalanga, the school should have been built more than a decade ago when former deputy president David Mabuza was still the province's premier.
"Currently, there are over 600 learners in the province who have already been identified to benefit from the school for the blind and deaf, yet they will not because the provincial government acts like construction of the school is not a matter of urgency. "It has been almost 12 years now since the school for the deaf and blind was announced on 24 May 2011 in the 2011 12 budget speech, but the location of this project has been moved numerous times due to the government stating that the identified locations are not suitable," said provincial DA leader Jane Sithole. Sithole said the issue of the school, which was expected to be built in the coal mining town of eMalahleni, came up during current premier Refilwe MtshweniTsipane's reply to oral questions in the provincial legislature. She said it was shocking to learn that the eMalahleni local municipality had withdrawn the land it promised to the provincial government. "In 2017, it came to the DA's attention that the department of education had appointed a private service provider for a year to offer boarding facilities for deaf and blind learners in the province instead of constructing a school for them," Sithole said. During the oral reply session, MtshweniTsipane indicated that feasibility studies had caused delays in the project over the years. "A site was established for the purpose of building the school in the Mbombela local municipality, but the feasibility study reflected a shortage of water in the area, which might pose a future challenge for the school. "A new site in the eMalahleni local municipality was identified but was later withdrawn by the municipality following a council resolution. Another site was identified in the same local municipality. It will be assessed to enable planning and design to commence," said MtshweniTsipane. The premier added that it would take until the end of September before they knew if the site was suitable for the school. "It is important to note that site investigations are conducted for the purpose of understanding the physical characteris tics and existing layout of the soil material. Often referred to as soil exploration, site investigation relies on a variety of field and lab tests to determine the best cause of action required," she said. This week, the DA said they wrote to the SAHRC last year requesting an investigation into the delayed construction of the school. However, the commission said there was no record of such a request from the DA but letters requesting investigations into existing schools for children with disabilities. "We do not have a record of such a complaint. The commission instituted its own probe on the lack of schools for learners with disabilities in the province in 2022. "The department of education advised us they are working on a reviewable plan to construct a residential school for the deaf and the blind in the province. The commission will be monitoring the implementation of the plan," said SAHRC spokesperson Wisani Baloyi. "The commission is following up on progress made in respect of these projects and other facilities which require revamping." Provincial education department spokesperson Jasper Zwane was not available to respond to a media inquiry. Government spends Um to rent boa rc inc facilities By Tshwarelo Hunter Mogakane Premier Refilwe MtshweniTsipane says it would take until the end of September before they know if the site is suitable for the construction of the school.

Source: Sunday World

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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