MEDIA RELEASE Tuesday, 21st of July, 2020
WILL DBE CARE NOW IN THE COVID19 PERIOD?
On the 7th of July, 2020 Blind SA wrote to the Minister of Basic Education to address challenges around education of blind and partially sighted learners during COVID-19. The letter was supported by an affidavit detailing the challenges.
Blind SA is a National Disable People’s Organization that advocates for the basic human rights and access to equitable, inclusive, resourced and quality services for blind and partially sighted people.
With particular reference to Blind SA’s work in education, Blind SA advocates to improve the scholastic circumstances of learners at school and ensures that learners have the necessary assistive devices and textbooks in the medium they need. Blind SA also assists parents to make the right choice whether to send their visually impaired child to an ordinary school or a special school and assists adult, visually impaired learners to write grade 12.
Social distancing resulted in reduced residential accommodation at the hostels. In some instances over fifty percent of learners cannot be accommodated in these hostels.
The Department undertook to provide furnished mobile facilities and there is no visible indication of the facility being provided.
There is a need for additional Teacher Aides to support the educators in the classrooms. Touch is an essential learning feature – we need to touch to feel, to recognize or to appreciate. There is a greater need to sanitize more regularly than other children.
Orientation and Mobility; the use of the white cane and skills of daily living are essential basic life skills. This was not provided to our learners. Learners depend upon other learners and staff to be guided on the school premises. The situation in view of social distancing is now more acute. The schools require O&M services.
Learners who are not at schools
These learners do not have basic braille writing machines, low vision devices or braille textbooks or readers. Most schools do not have enough books or assistive devices to send home with the learners and most parents do not have the means to buy it. It is too expensive.
These learners are not able to access the on line platforms since they are not in an accessible format and they lack adapted technology and data.
Because the DBE did not attend to these problems of our schools, even after two reports had been published during the past 11 years, the problems are now even worse in the COVID19 period. Will the DBE care now for these children?
Basic right to education
We are aware that the Department has a responsibility to learners in our country. Blind and partially sighted learners also have the right to this basic human right. We require the Department to indicate the steps being taken to ensure that blind and partially sighted learners are not discriminated against or “left behind”.
Also the Department should undertake an audit of the twenty-two Schools for the Blind to ensure compliance with the COVID-19 Regulations and Directions in respect of educational matters.
Blind SA supported Equal Education with the affidavit in their action against the DBE, which they launched on Friday, the 17th of July, 2020, at the High Court of Gauteng in Pretoria.
Chairperson: Blind SA Education and ECD Committee
Tel: 079 871 6628