Special needs top achiever blasts Education Department

By Drum Digital
10 January 2017

A disabled learner, who was part of a group of 21 top matrics nationally, has blasted the Department of Basic Education for “discriminating against those with special needs”.


Zachariah Nyathi, the top achiever nationally in the Special Education Needs category, is disappointed and heartbroken by the big event held by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga in Midrand last week to honour the top achievers. “I am quite sure you all witnessed all the things that were for promised for all top achievers. Unfortunately, they [the Department] forgot to specify that they excluded us [special needs learners],” Zachariah says.

“I am a top achiever but for all the prizes I was promised I only got two of them, a laptop and R50 000, while we witnessed a lot of other learners getting cash prizes, tablets, cellphones, airtime and data. I don't know why they called us just to break our hearts. Being invited to be humiliated and embarrassed is something we never thought would happen,” he yells.

The 21-year-old from Rivoni School for the Blind in Limpopo said the Department showed that they had “little consideration” for special needs achievers.

“Yes, we acknowledge and accept that we are disabled, but that doesn't mean we can't operate the cellphones and the tablets they promised us and never gave us. This is a clear indication of discriminatory and unfair treatment towards the disabled. We are also human beings and deserve respect and dignity. Calling us to break our hearts was very evil and I don't think I'll ever forgive them for breaking our spirits,” he continues.

Basic Education Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga dismisses the allegations saying although the learners only found out on the evening of the event what prizes they were receiving, they had a two-day access to officials for queries.

“We explained to them that specific sponsors sponsored specific positions in specific categories with specific prizes . . . The learners that queried understood the explanations given,” he says.

Elijah adds that none of the special needs top achievers queried their prizes on the night of the prize-giving event. He says they each won R50 000 towards their studies from the Road Accident Fund and a laptop from MTN. He said their prizes are worth far more than any of the other categories with the exception of the top achievers in Quintile 1 (they received SABC bursaries to fully fund their studies).

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