Children laugh at paralysed teacher – but education department ignores his pleas

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Themba Dlamini. Picture: Supplied
Themba Dlamini. Picture: Supplied

Pupils laugh at him every time he is in agony in class because of nerve pains.

Themba Dlamini, 51, is a wheelchair-bound teacher at Zakhekahle High School in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal.

In addition to his agony, the school does not have a ramp or disabled-friendly facilities for him.

He gets wet when it rains because of the distance he needs to travel between the car, office and classrooms.

Dlamini teaches maths for Grade 9, English for Grade 8 and life sciences for Grade 12.

“I cannot help but scream and cry in class because of the pain I get. It’s like I get electrocuted. That’s because of nerve pains,” Dlamini said.

“Children laugh at me when they hear me crying and see tears rolling down my face. I cannot do this anymore. Even in class, I struggle to write on the board or move between desks to supervise pupils,” Dlamini said.

Dlamini got spinal injuries while on his way to school when he was ambushed and shot multiple times by three unknown gunmen, who came running from the bushes in September 2009.

The incident happened 10 minutes away from his school.

Doctors declared him permanently paraplegic and unfit to teach.

Shortly after the incident, a medical report compiled by a neurosurgeon, Victor Stallenberg, confirmed this. City Press has seen the report.

Stallenberg, based at Bay Hospital in Richards Bay, said in his report, dated December 2009, that Dlamini was a paraplegic.

“It is important to take note that he is fully bound to a wheelchair so facilities should be made accessible at his workplace. If not, I think one should try to accommodate him in an office job,” the report said.

But Dlamini was not transferred to any office and decided to continue teaching at the same school because this was the only way he could support his children.

His pleas to be moved to an administrative post within the department had fallen on deaf ears for the past seven years.

Dlamini said provincial education department officials had, over the years, indicated that his case was a special one – but the department dealt only with children with disabilities not teachers.

He said officials had told him that there was no policy that gave a directive on how transfers should be instituted for teachers in his condition.

“I decided to continue to teach at the school because they are the only people who understand my situation. I’m not fit for teaching but I still want to work,” he said.

It was only this week that education authorities offered him a place at a special-needs school.

However, Dlamini said he had endured too much pain to continue teaching and would prefer an administrative post. The department had not responded to this request.

Another report compiled by Sailesh Ragoo, an orthopaedic surgeon at Empangeni Garden Clinic, dated February 2010, said Dlamini was paralysed in his lower limbs from his hips down.

“His paraplegia is permanent. In my view he is unlikely to regain any useful motor function of his lower limbs,” the report said.

His school principal, Bongani Ndlovu, wrote to the lower Mfolozi circuit office of the KwaZulu-Natal education department in September 2011 stating that Dlamini was in a “bad condition” to work.

KwaZulu-Natal education department spokesperson Mzu Mahlambi, who demanded that he be forwarded Dlamini’s contact details before he could reply to an email asking him to respond to questions, had not responded by the time of going to print.

Dlamini told City Press last week, shortly after Mahlambi was given Dlamini’s numbers, that he was contacted by him (Mahlambi) and was informed that he would be transferred to a special-needs school or the department would decide where to place him.

The basic education department also had not responded to questions by the time of going to print.


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