A 12-year-old Khubetsoana girl who had been stuck at home for the past four years because no “normal” school in the neighbourhood was willing to accommodate her due to her physical disability, would finally now have an education after her mother took legal action against government over the discrimination.
‘Mapulane Makatisi said her daughter, Pulane, had failed to find a school willing to enrol her because she was wheelchair-bound and after the story was published in the Sunday Express’ sister paper, the Lesotho Times, in February this year, officials from the Ministry of Social Development and Education allegedly promised to help her.
But according to Ms Makatisi, the promised help never came, prompting officials from the Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD) to intervene, and advise her to seek legal recourse.
“My daughter is disabled, and I could not send her to a special school, but each time I tried to register her, she would be turned down with the argument that there were no proper facilities for her.
“So because I don’t have money as I rely on piece jobs at the textile factories, she ended up staying at home. So for the past four years, she could only watch her age-mates go to school while she stayed at home. She was previously at a special school but we had problems there when my mother-in-law had a heated exchange with the principal over how the girl was being looked after, leading to her expulsion.
“But because I could not afford to raise the money needed for her special education, we tried ordinary schools but she was being turned down because of her disability. This created problems for me as I am a single parent, and I could see the pain in her eyes because she could not understand why she had to stay at home while her friends went to school,” Ms Makatisi said.
Following the publication of her daughter’s plight, Ms Makatisi said she had thought the ordeal was over when the ministry officials promised to help.
“But I waited and waited, and was becoming frustrated, until officials from LNFOD approached me and said I should take legal action over the issue.
“With LNFOD’s assistance, I approached Phoofolo Chambers where the lawyers wrote letters to the ministries of Education and Social Development Principal Secretaries, asking why my child was being denied her right to education, and also why she was being discriminated upon.
“I was then referred to a certain Education Officer, and I made it clear to him that I had been sent from one office to the other without any help and also that I was becoming tired of it. I told him what I simply wanted for my child to be at school, and that I didn’t want any trouble.
“Then on Tuesday last week, my prayers were answered as I received an admission letter from Rasetimela Government Primary School, which is in my neighborhood.
“This was what I had been praying about for so long—that my child should be in a neighbourhood school. The reason for this was it made it easy for me to take her to school and collect her afterwards since I don’t have money to hire a helper.
“My child was so happy to be at school; it was as if I had bought her a big present when she attended her first class in four years. She is in Standard Two because I was told she had to repeat the class since she had been away for so long. At her previous school, she had completed Standard Two, so I understood when the teachers said she should go back to Standard Two. And for the few days that Pulane has been at school, I can see that she is already catching up and coping; I cannot thank everyone who helped this become a reality, enough.
“As for me, I am a happy parent now because my baby is back at school. I had become increasingly worried about her safety because she was staying at home and had no one to look after her since I would be at the factories looking for temporary or piece jobs.
“I feel relieved and can now concentrate on trying to get a permanent job so that our lifestyle could be better.”
On his part, LNFOD Projects Coordinator, Rabasotho Moeletsi, said: “As LNFOD, we are happy that the issue has been resolved and the child can now go to school.
“We appeal to the school authorities, through the Ministry of Education, to ensure that they work hard to have an environment conducive for the special needs of this child.
“Our expectation as LNFOD is to see government taking its responsibility to ensure the Education Act of 2010 is effected and every child is catered for no-matter his or her condition.”
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