Kimberley - In another first for Kimberley, the Northern Cape Department of Education will introduce sign language as a subject for both foundation phase and Grade 9 learners at the Retlameleng Special School in the city.

This will be the first time in the history of the South African education system that sign language will be administered as a subject.

Education MEC, Grizelda Cjiekella-Lecholo, said that 28 teachers and officials at the school would be trained through Wits University as facilitators of sign language.

“This is part of a plan to re-energise inclusive education in our province.”

The classes will start with foundation phase and Grade 9 initially.

Cjiekella-Lecholo added that more than R80 million had been set aside in this year’s budget to address historic imbalances within inclusive education.

“We hope that by 2019, all five districts in the province will have at least one special school, each catering for learners with special education needs.

“We are planning to address the skewed location and resourcing of special schools in the province which, for many years, compromised attainment of access to quality public education by learners with barriers to learning.”

Out of a total of 11 special schools in the province, eight are located in the Frances Baard District.

“This is clearly an untenable arrangement that stands in stark contrast to our medium to long term objectives of ensuring equitable access to quality public education for children with barriers to learning,” Cjiekella-Lecholo said.

The bulk of the inclusive education budget will go towards procuring modern technological devices which are essential for learners with special needs.

“Historically, due to the shortage and skewed location of special schools in the province, learners with special needs were forced to travel long distances in order to access learning, or they were forced to stay at ordinary public schools which are unable to effectively accommodate or support their special needs.”

Following the scaling down of the mining operation at Kleinzee by De Beers and the subsequent sale of the mine, De Beers partnered with the department to make use of its facilities for learners with special education needs.

The opening of the Kleinzee Centre for Learning and Development in Namaqua District early this year came as a relief for parents in the district and the surrounding areas.

Learners will now no longer have to travel to Cape Town or Kimberley to access schools that accommodate their needs.

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