Blind students evicted from school


Training centre in Port Alfred shut because it can’t pay its rent

Photo of a building
The Konwaba training school for the blind has closed. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

The Konwaba Training Institute in Port Alfred was shut down two weeks ago and is unlikely to reopen. It owes R150,000 in rent to the Siwelele Co-operative, according to the owner of the institute, Nandipha Bhani.

In August, GroundUp published a story of a blind couple, Sibusiso Mdokwe and Sibusiso Dayimani, from Port St Johns, who were hoping to go back to school. A reader assisted them with the registration fees to study at Konwaba. But after two months, the institute has been shut and 28 blind students, including two who use wheelchairs, have been left stranded.

“The people from Siwelele came to evict us,” said Dayimani. “We were pushed like we were animals. They didn’t even care that we are blind and some are on wheelchairs … We had to sleep in a hall on that Thursday. They even refused to let us take our clothes. But one of the women, who was assisting with cooking at Konwaba, helped us take our belongings.”

The blind trainees are now sitting at home again. Dayimani said at Konwaba she was busy with computer studies, while Mdokwe said he was busy with communication. After the course, Mdokwe had wanted to start a project to teach braille to blind people in Port St John’s.

“Our life is on standstill at the moment, but we trust Bhani that she will come with a plan for the institute to open again. We seen her hustling for us … We were happy at Konwaba. We were not only studying but we were also doing activities as well,” said Dayimani.

But Bhani said it was not clear if she could reopen the institute. She said she had been using her own money. The institute charges R2,000 registration fee and monthly students pay R500 fees. She said some of the students struggled to pay the R500 every month.

According to Bani, the money was spent on food, stationery, and wages for three women who cook and do laundry for the students. She also hired and paid for outside teachers.

“I was very honest with Siwelele. I told them that I do not have a sponsor and some of my students are struggling to pay fees. I told them that I will try to get a learnership [sponsor] for my students,” said Bhani.

She said she was shocked and disappointed with the action taken by Siwelele. She plans to go to court for the ill treatment of her students. She also said she was sad and depressed by the closure. “I really liked spending time with my students and most of them believed in me – that I will make their dreams come true. But this happens and it was beyond my control,” she said. “I have knocked on a number of doors asking for help with no help [forthcoming].”

GroundUp has been unable to reach Siwelele for comment.

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TOPICS:  Disability Rights