Fee bearing image – Cape Town – 150121– Chulumanco Gawulekhaya from Nolathando School for the deaf in Khayelitsha. Schools in the Western Cape opened their doors for the first time this year. Reporter: Lisa Isaacs. Photographer: Armand Hough
Fee bearing image – Cape Town – 150121– Chulumanco Gawulekhaya from Nolathando School for the deaf in Khayelitsha. Schools in the Western Cape opened their doors for the first time this year. Reporter: Lisa Isaacs. Photographer: Armand Hough

Deaf girl won't let challenges deter her

By Time of article published Jan 22, 2015

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Lisa Isaacs

LIKE thousands of other children, little Chulumanco Gawulekhaya went to school yesterday, but unlike her peers, the spritely girl has additional challenges.

The Grade R pupil from Enkanini informal settlement in Khayelitsha is deaf, said her teacher at Noluthando School for the Deaf.

Chulumanco was born deaf, said sign-language teacher Nina Mafenuka.

“At first, she is shy, but as time goes by, she will interact. She can sign and because she was born deaf, she will learn to sign fast because it is her mother tongue,” Mafenuka said of Chulumanco’s first day at school.

Principal Thandeka Mavuka said Chulumanco was among the pupils bused to the no-fee school, which had 141 deaf pupils but also accommodated autistic pupils.

Once they learn to communicate, they apparently begin to feel isolated from their families, who often have little knowledge of sign language, so this is a place for them where they can express themselves.

Yesterday was also special for Surrey Primary School in Manenberg, where the day started with a warm breakfast for the majority of the 870 pupils. The meals were provided by the National Breakfast Feeding Scheme in conjunction with the Education Department.

School principal Imtiaz Adams said:

“Most of our pupils are from Manenberg and Gugulethu, and many of them come to school with empty stomachs. Sometimes breakfast here is the only meal they have.”

He noted that some pupils were initially shy to eat, but got into breakfast when they saw other children eat.

Adams directed his new Grade 1 pupils to the quad, where they were were split into classes. Anxious parents clamoured around their children to make sure their shirts were buttoned and shoelaces fastened.

Once the children were led to their classes, parents were told to say goodbye.

At Highlands Primary, the oldest school in Mitchells Plain, principal Gavin Burgess said although it battled problems such as gang activity in the area, teaching staff instilled a mindset of success in pupils from an early age.

Teacher Waseela Abdurahman said: “Our children come from our preschool, so they are familiar with the school and its grounds.”

Zoe Welgemoed, a 6-year-old, said she was nervous for her first day, despite having many friends in the same class.

“My parents were sad when they had to leave me, but I’m fine, I’m sitting next to my best friend,” she said, adding that she wanted to be a ballerina when she is older.

Meanwhile, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said parents who struggle to enrol their children in schools should to go to their nearest schools or Education district offices for assistance.

“The Western Cape Education Department will be on standby to provide assistance at schools where there are late registrations and any other last-minute tasks that need to be completed.”

More than a million pupils began their first day of the school year yesterday, about 109 000 of them in Grade 1.

Schäfer appealed to parents to take an active part in their children’s education. “Children can achieve much more with supportive, interested parents. Without it, their entire futures could be compromised.”

Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said the federation was “disappointed that the opening of the school year revealed the same old situation” in the province.

“The schools for the mainly white rich schools far exceed the poorer, mainly black schools in respect of facilities. This unequal situation of educational resources gives the black working class pupils|a huge disadvantage in relation to their white counterparts,” he said.

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