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February 6, 2004

MOE Asked to Build Senior School for Special Needs

From: - Africa - Feb 6, 2004

Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone) NEWS

By Shirley Nkepe

HEADMASTER of Mater-Spei Secondary School in Francistown, Fraser Tlhoiwe has appealed to the Ministry of Education to consider building a Senior Secondary School for children with special needs.

Tlhoiwe, was speaking in his capacity as Chairperson of The Botswana Society for the Deaf, at a handover ceremony of computing equipment worth US$50 000 from Hi-Performance Systems and Hewlett Packard Africa to Ramotswa Centre for the Deaf yesterday.

"Now is the time for the Ministry of Education to do it. We cannot afford to leave such a considerable group of people outside our system," he said.

After they complete their Junior Certificate, deaf students, Tlhoiwe said, are remitted to the Vocational Training Centres or Brigades, where they face hostile learning environments.

"There they encounter serious communication problems as well as teaching-learning difficulties. They usually find nothing in place to facilitate their learning - in terms of personnel or equipment," he said.

Tlhoiwe warned that this setting could hamper the realisation of 'an informed and educated nation' as envisaged in The Vision.

He acknowledged the existence of Molefhi Secondary School as the only school of a senior calibre that caters for those with special needs.

"Even then, the school caters for the Blind only, while the Deaf, Mentally Handicapped, Physically Impaired, Learning Impaired and the Gifted have got nowhere to go," he lamented.

For her part, Minister of Health, Lesego Motsumi also MP for the area emphasised the slogan that "Disability is not inability." Notwithstanding their disability, Motsumi noted that the deaf must be computer literate and enjoy the benefits of globalisation like the rest of society.

She pleaded with the school authorities against blocking the students and teachers from using the computers donated to the school to improve their teaching and learning skills. "Desist from the attitude of Don't touch this and that. Let the people touch, do, break and you repair the equipment," she said.

Giving his company's and the partners' project background, Ike Abdullah whose father lived and traded in Ramotswa for fifty-three years, revealed that together with donations to the University of Botswana and The African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP) carried out last year, the project cost 1.2 million Pula.

Meanwhile, Ramotswa School for Deaf Education is an initiative of the Botswana Society for the Deaf, which emerged in the sixties, under the auspices of a German Ear Nose and Throat nurse who worked at the Bamalete Lutheran Hospital in Ramotswa. The school started operating in 1979 with only 6 students as compared today's total of 110. It caters for the severe to the profoundly hearing impaired pupils. The pupils sit for the same Primary School Leaving Examination that all pupils in Botswana undertake. Normally these students proceed with grade Ds to a Community Junior Secondary School in Ramotswa or Tati-Siding, two of which also cater for the Deaf. Though not government property, the school is granted money by the government for feeding the children and other expenses annually. Moreover the government supports it through the provision of qualified specialised teachers.

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