Mom's struggle to get disabled child into school

By admin
19 August 2015

Doreen Moloko is desperate for her Downs Syndrome son Gift to go to school, but the closest school which is equipped for his needs is simply too full.

"I applied at a training centre in 2012 for Gift, but was told that the school was full," she says on the sidelines of the release of the report Complicit in Exclusion which deals with the country's failure to guarantee an inclusive education for children with disabilities. "I went on to a waiting list and heard nothing the whole year," she says.
'He had to stay away for three or four days so that the social workers did not find him there'

In 2013 she heard about a mainstream school in Orange Farm, where they live, which accepted children with learning difficulties. They agreed to enrol Gift, now 9.

"The teacher said he was doing fine, but he was a bit behind with communication and writing."

Other than that, he could do most of the tasks his peers in Grade R were also trying to master like using scissors, pasting, colouring in.

But, half way through the year she was told that all the Grade Rs would be assessed by occupational therapists and social workers.

They told her that Gift needed to be at the training centre she had already applied for. She explained that he was already on a waiting list, so the social worker tried to help and called a district head which gave her a letter she could give to the training centre to get him in immediately.

Even with the letter, they were too full to accept Gift. So, he went back to his mainstream school in Orange Farm.

But there was a proviso: if the social workers were due to come around again, he would have to stay at home on those days.

"He had to stay away for three or four days so that the social workers did not find him there."

This worked for two social worker visits, but the school was caught unawares for the third visit and Gift was quickly taken home by a teacher.

"The teacher knocked at the door of our house and brought him home. They needed to hide him like he was there in secret, not a child who was supposed to be at school," she says.

She was out that day, but fortunately her daughter had been off ill from school that day so she could look after the boy.

"Imagine if there had been nobody home?"

Moloko did not want to do that to Gift anymore and she is pleased that the training centre finally has a vacancy for her son.

But, because it is only available from next year, Gift is missing out on school.

The single mother, who does work for Afrika-Tikkun, an association that helps other families with disabled children, says he was also recently offered a place at a school in Randburg.

"This means we would have to wake up at 03:30 for the trip from Orange Farm to Randburg," she says.

''But the schools that far away ask us to try and find something closer because it's very difficult for the children who have to wake up that early to travel. By mid-morning the teachers find they are tired and can't concentrate.''

''I want him to have the same opportunities and care that other children experience,'' says Moloko.

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