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Disabled picket at Education dept

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The police were called in after persons with disabilities prevented officials from entering the offices on Wednesday morning by lying on the ground, in a desperate attempt to have their grievances heard.

File photo: Marcel Oosterwijk, Flickr.com

MEMBERS of Disabled People of South Africa (DPSA) staged a picket outside the Northern Cape Department of Education’s district offices in Upington, where they spent Tuesday night waiting for someone to accept their memorandum.

The police were called in after persons with disabilities prevented officials from entering the offices on Wednesday morning by lying on the ground, in a desperate attempt to have their grievances heard.

DPSA chairperson Yolanda Engelsman Malatsi said that they were manhandled by members of the public order police.

“They threw away our blankets that we brought with, where 25 DPSA members slept on the ground outside the gates of the offices. It was a peaceful picket and although we had applied through the MEC’s office, they said that no one knew about it and that we had no permission to be there. We have tried to raise our concerns with the Department of Education on several occasions regarding non-compliance on implementing policies regarding persons with disabilities.”

She said that they were calling for inclusive education for children with disabilities as well as the inclusion of disabled persons in the workplace.

“The department was expected to meet the seven percent target of disabled persons in terms of the Employment Equity Act, while the two percent cut-off date was overdue in 2010.”

She added that there was a long waiting list for pupils to be enrolled at special needs schools.

“We have children who are 12 and 16 years old with special needs who have not set foot in a school. We believe that being taken away from their families and communities is not beneficial. Once they enter the workplace or university there is a huge drop-out rate because they are not able to cope. Inclusive education would allow special needs children and mainstream children to become accustomed to and understand one another, so that they are not ostracised from society.”

The spokesperson for the provincial Department of Education, Geoffrey van der Merwe, said that the memorandum was accepted at the ZF Mgcawu district offices on Wednesday and handed to provincial officials.

“We will familiarise ourselves with the demands documented in the memorandum and respond within seven working days.”

Police spokesperson, Captain Sergio Kock, said the police patrolled the area where eight protesters were sleeping on Tuesday evening.

“The memorandum was handed over to a representative of the Department of Education on Wednesday by approximately 20 protesters. No incidents or any form of violence was reported to the police.”