They’re just Ramps.

It had been a month and half since my family and I moved back to South Africa, two months since my last school attendance. It had become a habit to sleep late in the day and do absolutely nothing.

When I left my old school in Botswana, I had only done a third of year, parents agreed they would let me finish the term. Originally, we thought of homeschooling or not the mainstream school environment was a good idea. The idea of: smaller classes, no worrying about large surface areas to walk across, more one-on-one with teacher(s). But with these types of schools, once you are in the designated area, only then can you apply.

I’m positively certain that my mom had twenty five tabs open at one time in search for decent home school environments. We found a couple. One that really caught our attention was one that offered the Cambridge syllabus, now, considering that is what I have studied my entire life, it was a great option.

We organized the interview, went to the interview, discovered that there were no teachers and that everything is self-taught. Every now and then a facilitator would arrive and assist those who asked. I said yes to a trial. Half way through the first day I sent my mom a text message stipulating, “I can’t do this.” There was no order, the other students were not serious about their work ethic and I found it excruciatingly difficult to study. Maybe, at that time, I will admit I may have been picky or too skeptical, but once you come from a history of good schools, you kind of expect nothing less.

I had spent another trial test at a different school on the East Rand; this one was private but practiced the Independent Examination Board (IEB) System. Even though I had felt more at ease with this environment, there were stairs and awkward places for classes to get around too. Defiantly a hassle at the time and I am, unfortunately, too stubborn to accept offered help. The principal insisted that I do an entrance exam, which in its own right, made sense, obviously because of me changing systems. Fifteen minutes before my test ended, my mom arrives and she is conversing with the head mistress. The school wanted to put me a year back before they even marked my test.

My third interview has got to be the best in proving my point. One of the most known schools in Edenvale had one look at me and said no. They made up their minds there and then.

Now, I have been to five schools in ten years, and none of them rejected me. They had facilities to help me out and if they didn’t, you bet within a week they made it. Let me give you an example: When I had my wrist operation, I had to use a wheelchair for abetment. My school was informed before holidays were over and in the first week of school, a dozen ramps were made for my ease.

The school that rejected me was old. The buildings were high and were constructed on steep hills with rocky foundation. So, imagine flights of stairs and some more flights on top of that. They had claimed that did have a student who used a wheelchair once, with the assistance of his colleagues lifting him up when need be. But he was injured. I wonder if I told them that I had an injury instead of a physical disability, would they have a change of heart…

By this time, I was frustrated as could be and not having a school to your name can make a person quite insecure. I was exhausted of trying to stay hopeful.

Eventually we did find a school that seemed, at the time, as good as it gets. I was put in the year I wanted to be in, and with one and a half years to go, I could not wait for school to be over. They had accepted me immediately, which I found a little odd, but I was relieved. But what a shock I was in for – so much so that if I could turn back time, I would have stopped myself and my parents from attending the interview.

This school put me and my fellow students through hell and back! This was not a proclaimed self-teaching private institution but it became that along the way. We were lucky if there were any teachers around to actually teach us. And, the ones who were stupid enough to stick around were the abusive ones. I wish I was making this up as if it was a fairytale during a tragic scene, but our biology teacher had: threatened a minor to “punch his teeth in” whilst holding up by the collar. He had heated arguments with other teachers, called my biology class, “stupid” and “bloody idiots”. This so called teacher always had something to complain about and it often accumulated for weeks.

I remember when my fellow Grade 12s and I visited a top notch school in Bedfordview – the author of our set book was on tour. Stating the point of this whole article, this school was not equipped for physically impaired people either. Well, if they spent all their money on a helicopter landing ground, I really do not see why they cannot construct a few ramps.

Anyway, back to this biology teacher. He had scolded us for not telling him where we were on the day of our excursion. We were confused because we knew our principal had let him know, but his response was, “No, you are supposed to tell me yourself.” The most aggravating times occurred when assignments were due or portfolio files needed to be checked. Whenever he wanted them – we did not have any notice and we had them ready to submit – he discarded them. His golden line of the year he had asked a Grade 10 female, “Do you eat all your sister’s food?”

My Grade 12 year can be summed as having: three Mathematics teachers plus an unqualified student who just graduated with a mediocre math’s grade. I had three Business Studies teachers; who never taught anything past the first topic. Towards the end the school asked the Hospitality teacher to help out. Even though I do not take these subjects, there were three Hospitality teachers, three Afrikaans teachers, four Geography teachers and some other subjects offered had no teachers for months. We had a break-in, which I learned that my school is not new to – add on the verbally abusive and unqualified teachers… oh, and my school had been rented out for someone to actually sleep in. That was my last year and a half of high school and it was not cheap. For more than ZR4000 a month, should I not have been treated better? I passed my final year based on self-studying and not relying on any teacher for information to be given, the only problem was when certain projects had to completed for the third party to evaluate, those projects had to be handed out by teachers. One incident happened for the Grade 12 Afrikaans class – the owner of the school stepped in when the teacher left, qualifications unknown. The main assignment of the year was meant to be handed out to all students in April, when did this class receive it? In August. Now, obviously these students are anxious and scared because they have less time to do this, one student asks the facilitator, “What if we fail?” And that seemed that like an appropriate question to ask with all that is left to do. Her retort – “That’s life.” This came from a woman who said to her teacher-staff that they should give “extra attention” to the children whose parents are paying the school fees.

I had to go to another school with my mom to have a meeting with a French teacher. This school was founded in 1902 and my mother actually scouted the grounds whilst waiting me to finish. There was only one ramp being constructed. Well, at least it is doing better than all the other well-known schools I have encountered. This school had the same turnover as “the helicopter landing school” so I know money is not the issue when making school grounds environmentally friendly for the physically disabled, but what is the problem?

“South Africa is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, signed on 30 March 2007 and ratified on 30 November 2007. [4][5] The national constitution’s chapter two, “bill of rights” explicitly prohibits unfair discrimination against people on the basis of disability or health status.”

“The separate special schools policies of the Apartheid era created a system of schools for children with a wide variety of disabilities, with some schools specializing in educating blind, deaf or intellectually impaired students while others that catered for physically disabled students offered the standard academic curriculum coupled with medical and paramedical services to treat the pupils’ impairments. As with the general population these schools were also racially segregated and the ones for white children were far better resourced than those for other racial groups. With the abolition of apartheid came a policy shift towards inclusive education with the ideal that most disabled children should attend the same schools as their non-disabled peers, however the process of making schools physically accessible and equipping and staffing them to accommodate such students has been very slow.[19][20][21][22][23] The 2014 CSDA study showed that the proportion of people with disabilities in South Africa who had achieved a university degree had risen from 0,3% in 2002, to between 1% and 2% in 2014.[18]” – *Both Sources are found on Wikipedia.

I find it humorous that many people presume that Africa is behind South Africa totally, and in many ways yes, in terms of infrastructure and development. But, when Africa says they treat everyone equally or at least tries to – they mean it. I had no social complications whatsoever.
Why have mainstream schools not opened their doors to physically disabled persons yet? I know that people have moved on from the misconception that just because you are physically compromised does not assure that you are mentally too. So what is holding everything back? Because I would like to know.

“If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison
us, do we not die?” – Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1.

“An estimated half-a-million children with disabilities have been shut out of South Africa’s education system, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today at a joint event with South Africa’s Human Rights Commission.” – https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/08/18/south-africa-education-barriers-children-disabilities

Are you afraid of us?

Information about the Author: I was three months premature and by the time I arrived at the hospital, I had suffered an hour and a half of oxygen deprivation. This, in turn, caused 60% damage to my brain. I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at ten months; affected areas were the left side of my body (hemiplegic) I have used a K-walker up until the age of 15. Now, I only use crutches in crowded areas or unknown areas to me. Five schools in three countries – NEVER FAILED A YEAR.

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