High demand, limited space strain special needs education in Eastern Cape

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The 2024 academic year poses challenges for learners with special needs in the Eastern Cape, as the demand for placement in the province’s 45 special needs schools exceeds the available classroom space.

The situation is most critical for children with autism.

The founder of the non-profit organisation Autism Matters, Nobethembu Qosho highlighted the persistent issue, stating, “We are nowhere in this province; it is still a huge challenge for these kids to get a school, the waiting list is endless.”

Qosho emphasised the growing number of children diagnosed with autism, contributing to an ever-expanding waiting list.

Special needs schools shortage in Eastern Cape: Anele Siswana

In the Nelson Mandela Bay metro alone, more than 130 children with autism are currently on the waiting list for placement. Malibongwe Mtima, the spokesperson for the provincial Education Department, acknowledged the issue and outlined their plans to address it.

Mtima says, “Of the 45 special schools in the province, 17 are in Port Elizabeth. Generally, we do not have a long waiting list in our schools except in Quest, which is dealing with autistic learners.”

“However, this year we started an autism wing at Merryvale Special School. For the school that does not write Grade 12, placement is done throughout the year as they follow differentiated learning. Only 10 schools are doing Grade 12, first the schools of skills that are attracting those learners that are at Mild to Moderate Handicap (MMH); the applicants are only taken when they turn age 14. Furthermore, 18 mainstream schools have introduced technical occupation curriculum (TOC), which means even those schools do not have the long waiting list.”
A newly-built, multi-million rand special needs school open its doors in the Eastern Cape