NCPDs fight for the dignity and human rights of children at Mthatha’s Ikhwezi Lokusa Special School

Therina Wentzel shared a heartening update, after a session with parents of learners at Mthatha’s Ikhwezi Lokusa Special School on Thursday, 30 November hosted at APD Mthatha.

Parents left feeling empowered, knowing their rights are supported by NCPD and EELC. Inspired by this unity, a parents’ organization is in the making with Beauty’s assistance. Together, they’ve outlined immediate needs, and NCPD is committed to providing support. Early next year, the journey continues as parents and NCPD join forces to litigate against the school and department. Thank you to everyone who supported the session.

On Friday, 01 December, the NCPD team arrived at Ikhwezi Lokusa Special School, where they were denied entry. Attached are a few photos capturing the current condition of the school from the outside.

Photos shared as events unfolded on the day

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Please see the link to Luba’s eNCA interview
https://www.enca.com/lifestyle-videos/disability-rights-ensuring-equality-all-mzansi

Media Release: Neglect & abuse are pervasive. Infrastructure has crumbled. Safety is at serious and perpetual risk.

The National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities invited media to join a delegation (that include parents of learners, the South African Disability Alliance and the Equal Education Law Centre) to engage on the dire situation at Ikhwezi Lokusa Special School; to demand improvements, to resolve steps to hold the provincial department of basic education accountable; and to meet with school management to find out why promises made have not been kept.

Conditions at Mthatha’s Ikhwezi Lokusa Special School for children with disabilities are appalling. Infrastructure has crumbled. Neglect and abuse are pervasive. The safety of children is at serious and perpetual risk. There are well-founded fears that the provincial department of basic education will not reopen the school at the beginning of the 2024 academic year. This is the only public-sector school serving families in the area whose children have disabilities.

Therina Wentzel, Director at the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) says conditions at the school (and the desperate situation in which children find themselves) are clear evidence that both Department of Basic Education and the school principal are in violation of the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“They are also flagrantly disregarding the Constitution and sections 9 and 10 of the Bill of Rights that state clearly that all persons – including persons with disabilities who are specifically mentioned in Bill of Rights definitions – are entitled to human dignity and safety. In fact, the Constitution guarantees these rights. There has to be accountability and repercussions for what is happening at Ikhwezi Lokusa ,” she says.

NCPD is outraged. Says spokesperson (and former learner at Ikhwezi Lokusa Special School), Lubabalo Mbeki: “In spite of numerous requests and demands to redress deplorable conditions at the school, and despite numerous promises – on the record –  to invest in repairs and provide suitably qualified staff to care for the children; learners continue to be exposed to brutal and dehumanising mismanagement of their basic needs. They suffer unsanitary conditions, neglect and abuse.”

“Our concerns, and the deep distress of parents, are on the record, and have been for many months. Nothing, bar a whole lot of finger-pointing, has been done. This, in spite of the province and the school undertaking to act. Litigation is now being considered as a desperate last resort.” Parents have pointed out, and are on the record, that their children are kept in filthy and unsanitary conditions. The children have sores on their bodies as a result of not being cleaned after soiling themselves. Children do the best they can, given their disabilities, to clean themselves using water in toilet bowls. Many children don’t receive the medication prescribed for them. All 189 children, many with severe disabilities, are routinely left alone for hours while housemothers change shifts.

Tarryn Cooper-Bell, Senior Attorney from the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), is on-site as part of our legal team. Pila-sande Mkuzo is joining her. They have experience in litigation against the Department of Education in the Eastern Cape. They are known for their success in addressing issues like pit toilets, securing running water, and providing proper toilets for rural schools.

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