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Durban - A Chatsworth special needs school has been offering more than 100 pupils courses such as motor repairs and metalwork – without any equipment or resources.
The strange set-up at Truro Learners with Special Educational Needs (LSEN) School led pupils to boycott classes this week, saying they were only being taught theory, without the practical work that was necessary for them to properly learn their trades.
They are calling for funding and resources that had been denied because of a delay by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education in registering the school.
Truro LSEN School was originally a mainstream school.
But owing to dropping numbers, it was converted into a school for pupils with special needs in April 2012, said IFP MP Les Govender, the party’s spokesman on education.
He said the school had 147 pupils, some of whom were taken from the nearby Damorosa Pre-Vocational Secondary School. Truro was established as an extension of Damorosa.
“Truro is not registered as an LSEN school by the department, so its resources and funding are controlled by Damorosa,” said Govender.
He said the department’s head, Nkosinathi Sishi, had visited the school in November.
Sishi had then given a directive that the school must be registered as a special needs school, “but this has not happened”.
The pupils refused to attend class on Wednesday, saying the school had no equipment despite being a pre-vocational school.
Vinay Singh, of the Representative Council of Learners (RCL), said there was no money for equipment, and there were no facilities.
“We come here to learn a trade, but all we do is theory, no practicals,” he said.
The school offers subjects including motor repairs, hospitality and metalwork.
However, Singh said: “There is no money for maintenance and we have a bus, but it is sitting at Damorosa.
“We can’t use it.”
Vee Gani, the south Durban regional chairman of the Parents Association of KwaZulu-Natal, said the pupils had legitimate concerns that needed to be addressed.
“The main problem is that the school is an extension of Damorosa.
“Truro was also not allocated funds in the 2013/14 year,” said Gani.
However, department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said the school could not exist independently because of small numbers.
“When (Sishi) went to the school in November there were fewer than 50 learners at the school.
“By linking them with Damorosa they are given a lifeline administratively,” he said.
Mahlambi said the department would investigate how the number of pupils had increased from November if admissions were concluded in October.
“It may be that the learners do not all have special needs.”
Mahlambi also said that, when Sishi had met the principal and school governing body, they had said they were happy with the current situation.
Deon Bishop, principal of the school, said he was in discussions with the department regarding funding.
The pupils had agreed to return to class in the interim, he said.