Masiphumelele mother’s struggle to find school for deaf son
Her story highlights the problems faced by children with disabilities and their parents
Vuyokazi Tom has been struggling to find a school that can provide for her child who is partially deaf.
“I will never let my son stay at home [and not go to school] because he has a hearing problem. I want him to get an education and make something of himself. He must have the same opportunities as his brothers and other children. So if I have to wake up early every morning, I will do so,” she says.
In May last year, her son, Alulutho Tom, ten years old and now in grade 5, had an operation. In June he was given hearing aids.
Before the operation she quit her previous job to look after him. “My son was being teased at school because he couldn’t speak properly and because of his hearing,” she says.
After he received the hearing aids, things improved, but she still wanted a school that would be able to accommodate his impaired hearing. She knew of a school in Wittebome, 21km from Masiphumelele. But the school said it only took children that did not speak. As Alulutho was partially deaf and could speak, he did not qualify.
“Someone told me of another school in Hout Bay. I went there, and the first time they told me it would be difficult for him to learn English because he was coming from a school that had Xhosa as first language,” says Tom.
Then earlier this year, she was told that her son could not return to Ukhanyo Primary School as he was not coping.
When she tried the Hout Bay school again, she was told the school could only accept children referred there by the Department of Education.
In March, she managed to find a school in Observatory, 28km from their home.
When the trains run late, she sometimes gets to work at noon. She says she is fortunate that her employers understand her problem and are supportive.
“With the way trains are, what if they announce something and he does not hear it and gets into the wrong train?” she asks. In the afternoon, Alulutho can catch the train with other children and he knows to look out for his station to get off.
The school in Hout Bay is a boarding school and she wouldn’t have to worry about him travelling with public transport. If however he gets into the school but does not get accommodation, he will have to use three forms of transport to get to school even though it is closer to Masiphumelele.
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