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The Imbali Education and Innovation Precinct (IEIP) was honoured to be part of the Ekukhanyeni Special School Open Day event that was recently held at the premises of the school.

The purpose of the event was to showcase the skills and the potential that the learners have irrespective of their disability, furthermore, to advocate their work to the neighbouring schools and raise funds.

The Ekukhanyeni Special School is located in the township of Imbali: Pietermaritzburg near the Durban University of Technology (DUT), Indumiso Campus. Among other skills programmes that the school offers are computer, woodwork, carpentry, leatherwork, arts and crafts, needlework, sewing, printing, agriculture, food production and hospitality to learners between the ages of 14 to 18 years. All of the products that the children were selling to the community on the day was made by them as a result of the skills and knowledge they gained from the School’s Skills Programme.

The Ekukhanyeni Special School is one of the schools that is part of the IEIP and their Skills Programme which is aligned and promotes some of the skills that IEIP is advocating.

The event was organised by the Ekukhanyeni Special School in collaboration with uMgungundlovu District and neighbouring primary schools within the Imbali township.

On the day of the event, Deputy Principal Dr Gladys Ntombela had a short meeting with the parents of the learners. During the meeting, she spoke about the importance of identifying special needs children at an early age so that they can be provided with the support they need to nurture and grow their skills. She also encouraged parents to be supportive of the learners and spread knowledge to more people who are not aware of such opportunities available for special needs learners.

The Circuit Manager, Mr Dumisani Hlongwane who is responsible for 31 schools within Imbali was thrilled to be part of the event.

“It is important for me to attend so I can provide support to the school, especially because it provides for learners with special needs, and I would like to encourage mainstream schools (ordinary schools) to partake in such events so that they can refer parents who have children with learning barriers to Ekukhanyeni,” said Hlongwane.

He further added that such events are important as they build confidence, contribute to the self-worth of learners and help them to seek acknowledgement that they are part of the community and they can make a meaningful contribution. Furthermore, he said there are a lot of community members who still have misconceptions about children who have learning barriers and they are often called names.

“Educating and providing support to communities can bring a positive change as there are parents who regard themselves as having been bewitched or cursed, and deprive their children education by keeping them locked up at home,” he added.

The Head of Skills Department in Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) and Arts and Crafts Mrs Kedibone Moso who has been with the school for six years elaborated that Ekukhanyeni is categorised as a severely mentally handicapped school with a mission to help and guide their learners to be socially, economically and spiritually independent.

“As an educator that gets to interact with such learners on daily basis, it is significant to be patient, have stimulating abilities and many other skills to ensure effectiveness in skills transfer. I really love my learners as they always show dedication. It is such a great honour to be part of this event where our learners showcase their skills and abilities,” said Moso.

Noxolo Ntombela from KwaPata eBhizili in Pietermaritzburg. She is a learner who joined the school in 2016 and is currently studying the art and craft programme. She is a talented young lady who does Mandala painting, cultural crafts, creating stylish fruit dishes, photo frames, pillowcases, paint tekkies and many more items.

Ntombela explained that the open day event will make people realise that being a child with special needs does not limit a person to become whoever they want to be and that they are also normal, creative and talented.

“I came to Ekukhanyeni Special School without knowing my talent, but with the assistance from the dedicated teachers, I discovered my talent which makes me to be grateful for such an opportunity because with the knowledge gained I am going to make a living and be able to provide for myself and family,” said Ntombela.

She also mentioned that children with special needs should not be afraid to dream big, believe in themselves and she also encouraged parents to be supportive towards them.

Pictured: Ekukhanyeni learners, staff, DUT staff and stakeholders at the event.

Zanele Mashaba

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