Video: Cikizwa wants to go to school

The Eastern Cape learner is kept waiting for a place in high school, after five years of treatment for a spinal condition

By Daniel Steyn and Mkhuseli Sizani

13 October 2022

Cikizwa Ntlali, 18, from Mgojweni Village in rural Eastern Cape, finished grade 7 last year. For years she was unable to attend school as she underwent medical treatment for a spinal condition that left her paralysed.

She is a bright learner, having received a good report card for last year. But although she is now supposed to be in grade 8, there are no suitable high schools to accommodate her in her area. She needs hands-on assistance.

The closest special needs school is in East London, a five-hour drive from the village. A return trip to Elliotdale costs up to R800.

Traditional leader Nosintu Gwebindlala helped Cikizwa attend assessments with the Department of Education’s specialists in Elliotdale, so that she could get onto the waiting list for the school.

Cikizwa has now completed all assessments and, according to Gwebindlala, was hoping to be placed in the school in August. But she is still waiting.

Spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Education Malibongwe Mtima told GroundUp that he is unable to comment on Cikizwa’s individual case.

“Trust me, we will get to her,” he said as he explained the MEC for Education’s new drive to ensure that children with disabilities across the province are enrolled at schools.

Because of a lack of capacity at the district level, the drive is being coordinated at the provincial level, with a specialist team visiting each district in the province over a few months. Mtima said that Amathole District, where Cikizwa is from, will be visited at the end of October.

Mtima explained that there is a shortage of specialist skills at district level, which makes it difficult for the department to deal with the backlog of cases.

Because of this, he says, and because of stigma about disability which deters parents from enrolling their children in school, it is difficult to gather data. The department currently does not know how many learners have disabilities in rural Eastern Cape.

Mtima also said that the department is moving away from “special needs” schools and towards “inclusive full-service schools”. He could not say how many schools in the Eastern Cape had become inclusive full-service schools.