Urban Sky Trust

Plans to close school for deaf kids

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THE SPECIAL unit for partially hearing pupils at Greenwood Primary School could be closed down and the pupils moved to the Reuben Birin special school in Missionvale. The move was proposed by the Eastern Cape education department to cut its subsidy costs to the school.

The schools are the only two in Port Elizabeth which offer special classes for children with hearing problems. Greenwood‘s governing body, however, is opposed to the proposal, claiming that Reuben Birin is too far for some of the pupils and in an unsafe environment.

The special school for children with partial hearing problems was moved from North End to Greenwood Primary – a mainstream school which caters for children with special needs – in 1991. The unit for children with special needs is funded by the department over and above the normal school subsidy.

Member of the SGB Janet Marneweck said the Reuben Birin school catered for a different category of hearing impairment. “That school is for totally deaf children and these children in Greenwood can partially hear. They can be taught verbally, but if they are sent to the school they would have to be taught in sign language,” Marneweck said.

She said the subsidy for the Greenwood special unit was about R116 000 a year and the department was more concerned about cutting costs than the development of the children.

Marneweck said Greenwood had about 64 pupils in the partially hearing classes. “We know that nothing has been signed yet but we have tried to contact the department to let them know of our concerns, but we have not had a response from them,” she said. Port Elizabeth education district manager Sam Snayer said a special task team had been formed to look into the plan but nothing was finalised yet. He said Reuben Birin was a school for all children with hearing problems, not just those who were totally deaf and therefore there was no need to fear that pupils who went there would be nderdeveloped.

“We cannot have a duplication of services. We need to cut down on our expenditure. The number of pupils who need special care in Greenwood doesn‘t justify the existence of the special unit at the school.” Reuben Birin school principal Theo Engelbrecht said currently the school could not accommodate more pupils. “However, I am aware that the department is looking at options to develop capacity at the school should they decide to bring more pupils.”

Plans to close school for deaf kids
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