Cikizwa is going to school at last

Education department steps in after GroundUp article

By Daniel Steyn

10 November 2022

Cikizwa Ntlali, the disabled learner we reported on in October, who was battling to find a place in school, has finally been placed in a special needs school.

“I am filled with happiness now that I am going back to school next year,” Cikizwa told GroundUp. “I am looking forward to working hard and achieving my dream.”

Cikizwa is 17 years old but is yet to start high school, having missed five years of school while receiving medical treatment for a spinal condition that has left her paralysed.

Learners with disabilities are supposed to be placed in ordinary schools where possible and the provincial MECs are supposed to ensure that appropriate support is provided.

But Cikizwa lives in Xhora Mouth in the rural Eastern Cape where access to school is limited. The roads are bad and most children walk long distances to school or rent basic accommodation near high schools. The nearest public high school is about ten kilometres away.

For Cikizwa, neither of these is an option. Cikizwa was carried to primary school by her sister and father, but this would be impossible for high school. Motorised transport is not affordable.

So finding a place at the closest special needs school in East London, 220km away from her home, was the best option.

Traditional leader of Xhora Mouth Nosintu Gwebindlala helped Cikizwa undergo the necessary assessments so that she could qualify for a place. Each return trip to Elliotdale, where the assessments took place, cost Gwebindlala R800.

Asked in October about Cikizwa’s situation, Eastern Cape Education Department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said the MEC was launching a “service on wheels” project where a team of specialists would visit all rural areas in the Eastern Cape and help enrol learners with disabilities in schools.

He said then that her area would be visited by the end of October. But it seems that instead, Gwebindlala was contacted directly and Cikizwa was offered a place in the East London special needs school.

When GroundUp asked Mtima this week what had happened to the promised “service on wheels”, he declined to comment. Instead, he criticised GroundUp for “looking for negative stories” and hung up the phone when we persisted with questions.