Durban — While achieving the country’s second-highest matric pass rate in 2023 was a moment to savour, KwaZulu-Natal education officials were also happy with the department’s other achievements.
The department catered for the most number (35) of matric pupils with hearing difficulties, and some teaching methods employed at specially equipped schools took learning via sign language to another level.
Asanda Mchunu and Xoliswa Nkabinde, both from KwaThintwa School for the Deaf in KZN are products of those endeavours.
They did the province proud by placing first and third respectively in the country, in the sign language category.
KZN education authorities have also been lauded for their enrolment of foreign nationals at schools around the province.
Nathi Ngcobo, the provincial Head of Department of Education, said catering for children with special learning needs and accommodating pupils from neighbouring countries were objectives embedded in their mission statement.
“We provide quality education to every child enrolled at our schools. It is a constitutional imperative not to discriminate against learners regardless of their country of origin.”
Ngcobo said many children from countries like eSwatini and Mozambique, living near South Africa’s borders, crossed daily for their schooling.
In the Umkhanyakude district in northern KZN, which was the province’s best performing district, Ngcobo said inter-marriages between people living in close proximity to the border were common.
He said most of the schools near the borders in predominantly rural areas were no-fee paying schools.
With places like Durban having a high concentration of foreign nationals living and working in the city, Ngcobo said their children were also schooled locally.
“We don’t turn anyone away. Addington Primary is a prime example in Durban of schools catering for children from various African countries.”
Ngcobo said they had various specialist centres like Vuleka, Fulton, KwaThintwa, VN Naik and St Martin De Porres Comprehensive that provided learning in sign language.
“KZN is the leading province in the country in terms of the number of children that attended sign language facilities.”
Ngcobo said they realised the importance of catering for children with such special needs and responded accordingly.
“We seconded a specialist facilitator to the province to service all the schools in the various districts that provide learning with sign language.
“This facilitator is responsible for providing specialist training and assisting educators, and is always on the lookout for innovative ways to teach.”
Ngcobo said they were pleased that some of the pupils with hearing impairment had performed exceptionally well, and all who enrolled for the 2023 exam had passed.
Imran Keeka, the DA’s KZN chief whip and spokesperson on education, said having visited various facilities that schooled learners with hearing impairment, it was “heart-warming to see dedicated staff and the methods of learning and teaching”.
“We received information about the various successes of learners beyond their schooling days, and the exam oversight visits shed light on the excellent methodologies employed.
“During our visit we were told of learners who went on to obtain tertiary qualifications and even Olympic medals.”
However, Keeka said it was unfortunate that not enough was done to provide greater access to learners with disabilities in KZN.
Keeka said foreign nationals who were legally within the country’s borders were lawfully entitled to government services.