‘Sleepy’ pupil turns to court

2015-11-11 11:47
(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Pietermaritzburg - A matric pupil suffering from a sleep disorder was forced to turn to the high court for permission to get an extra five minutes per hour to write each of his matric exams.

The extra time was granted to the Crawford College North Coast pupil in terms of an order confirmed by KZN Judge President Achmat Jappie in the ­Pietermaritzburg high court yesterday.

According to court papers, the pupil was diagnosed with both Attention ­Deficit Disorder (ADD) and narcolepsy or “sleepiness”.

Despite the Department of Education (DoE) having established guidelines whereby pupils suffering from proven “learning barriers” can apply for a ­concession for extra time to write their matric exams, it refused a late ­application lodged by Crawford College on behalf of the boy.

This was allegedly because the ­department said the application should have been lodged at the beginning of the year. This despite the fact that, ­according to the pupil, he was only ­diagnosed with ADD in January and with narcolepsy in June this year.

He says that he has undergone various tests since then, consulted specialists including an educational psychologist, tried changing his diet, varied his prescribed medicines, and embarked on a special exercise, sleep and rest programme in a bid to beat his illnesses.

So far, however, he continues to be plagued by the same symptoms that led to the diagnosis.

“I feel highly fatigued and sleepy ­during lengthy exam sessions, despite having a long sleep during the night. So much so that I could not complete one question in the English home language paper one which I wrote on October 26,” he said in his affidavit.

He was forced to write this ­examination paper without any ­additional time being allotted to him, the court papers reveal.

This was confirmed by the pupil’s ­attorney, Shashi Marajh of Durban, who explained that it was as a result of this that they went to court to get an urgent interim interdict against the MEC and Department of Education in KZN on October 27.

“We were granted an urgent interim interdict on October 27, in terms of which [the pupil] was allowed the extra five minutes per hour per exam which he requested. Afterwards the ­department caved in and consented to the order, having till then dragged its heels. A final order of court was granted yesterday on an unopposed basis,” the attorney said.

Marajh said the boy had been allowed an additional five minutes per hour when writing all his exams so far, bar the one English paper on October 26. According to his exam schedule, which was ­attached to the court papers, he still has five exams to go — business studies ­paper one (Nov 12); information ­technology paper two (Nov 13); Afrikaans papers two and three (Nov 18 and 19); and English paper three (Nov 25).

According to the pupil’s educational psychologist, Dr Caron Bustin, he was previously an “A scholar” who achieved high marks, which have deteriorated this year. He hoped to study business or ­computer science and had already been provisionally accepted into university to further his studies.

Another doctor, Yatish Kara, said the boy had consulted him in January this year, concerned about his “poor concentration”. He reported feeling himself “drifting away” and that his grades were deteriorating. He suffered from headaches and reported that his eyes would simply close and that he slept a lot.

He was diagnosed with ADD and, ­following a consultation with a specialist neurologist, was further diagnosed with narcolepsy.

The National Institute of ­Neurological Disorders and Stroke describes narcolepsy on its website as a “chronic brain disorder that ­involves poor control of sleep-wake cycles”.

“People with narcolepsy ­experience periods of extreme ­daytime sleepiness and sudden, ­irresistible bouts of sleep that can strike at any time. These ‘sleep ­attacks’ usually last a few seconds to several minutes,” it states.

The website says narcolepsy affects males and females equally and appears throughout the world. Symptoms often start in childhood or adolescence, but can start later.

It is not rare but is an “under-recognised and underdiagnosed condition”.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  matric exams  |  court

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