Special needs school is classroom by day, bedroom by night

About 137 children at Masinakane Special School in Mpumalanga have to sleep in a classroom after hours because the school doesn't have a hostel to accommodate them.
About 137 children at Masinakane Special School in Mpumalanga have to sleep in a classroom after hours because the school doesn't have a hostel to accommodate them.
Image: SUPPLIED

More than 120 pupils with special needs in a Mpumalanga school are forced to use their classrooms as makeshift bedrooms and rely on bedpans to relieve themselves at night.

Classrooms at Masinakane Special School in Loding village near Siyabuswa transform into bedrooms every night because the school does not have a hostel.

The school's 137 children lay mattresses on their classroom floor every evening and remove them in the morning before lessons begin.

Mpostoli Masombuka, chairperson of the school's governing body, told Sowetan that they had been using dilapidated hostels at a nearby school, Mbulawa Secondary School, but were forced to vacate the premises for the childrens' safety last month.

"We don't know what to do but the department has promised to give us mobile classrooms next month," Masombuka said.

Masombuka said the school had been using the old dilapidated building as its hostel since 2008, but the building was already falling apart.

"It's an old building, we tried renovating it but it could fall apart anytime hence the children were removed."

The school accommodates pupils from across the province suffering from slow development and epilepsy, among others.

Pictures of the conditions the children lived in were made public by Jackson Malatjie, an EFF convenor in the area, who shared them on social media this week.

Malatjie said he wanted to bring the plight of the most vulnerable children to everyone's attention.

"It's unfair what's happening to these kids. I took the pictures to expose what's happening because I'm not happy to see them in such a situation," Malatjie said.

He said it was worrying that the children have to use 25-litre buckets as bedpans.

One of the parents said they were told that the school might be forced to close down due to the nonavailability of a hostel.

"Parents can't be expected to take these kids back home because that may affect their development," the parent said.

Jasper Zwane, spokesperson for education department, did not respond to Sowetan's request for a comment.

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