The future of the youth often depends on how successfully they transition from basic to higher education, but it is different for pupils with learning difficulties.
This is according to former learners of the MM Sebitloane Special School based in Taung, North West, who are now working for the school.
The school caters for students who have special educational needs due to severe and moderate learning difficulties, physical disabilities, autism, and Down Syndrome among others.
Innocentia Msikinya who completed school in 2019 has moderate learning difficulties and was unable to cope in mainstream schools. However, she didn’t allow this to determine her future.
She is currently not just excelling as an athlete but is also a qualified nail technician, a skill she learned at special school which is helping her to earn a good income.
“I take time to process information and people who are not informed call us slow learners, which is wrong. In 2019 before I completed school, I went for a course in Pretoria for nails, so I am a professional nail technician. So even at home I have my own store, so I have an income and now I am a nail technician class assistant where I attended school,” says Msikinya.
“The mainstream learners labelled us as mad people, saying that we are disabled, so it was very challenging because we had to change our uniforms. I’m glad that our principal saw that because now we have got our own transport. That is painful but now what makes me strong again is that the same learners who told me that I am crazy came and asked me to do her nails and they were very happy when I was done.”
Other former learners have also managed to get employment. Bokamoso Khosi is designing uniforms for the school, while Thuto Monchonyane is teaching carpentry and upholstery.
Bokamoso Khosi say that, “it is only here at Sebitloane where I have learnt how to sew because I couldn’t make it at normal schools. I came here and acquired this skill and now I make income at home.”
Thuto Monchonyane a former leaner at the same school says that carpentry special schools are important because they help learners with special needs a lot. It happens that you can’t be corporate at extreme schools and when you come to special schools, you get the needed assistance.
The school Principal Boipelo Mmokwa says this empowerment programme benefits all skilled learners.
“We cannot be able to appoint all our former learners. We go outside to invite parents to the school so we can discuss this program, subsidizing the learners to go and buy what they need, the machines. Some of the people outside they see special schools as dumping sides, whereas learners can do things they can’t even believe,” says Mmokwa.
The school governing body says parents should not be ashamed when their children struggle to cope in mainstream schools but rather seek information on how they can be assisted.
The SGB chairperson Andries Swarts says that “if learners are struggling, there are programs at normal schools whereby learners are referred to the special schools. Such learners are like any kid or learner attending at normal schools. We encourage parents to seek information and get necessary assistance.”
These young newly established entrepreneurs are grateful for the opportunities they have been given and hope to improve the economy by creating employment in the near future.