“Our pupils accept them as members of our society who are capable of doing things” says principal of Sophakama Primary. By Peter Luhanga.
A group of Dunoon residents have not let their disabilities hold them back from helping to clean a local school.
The ten people with disabilities have signed a six-month contract, which commenced on 17 October, to clean Sophakama Primary School. Their income will also supplement the group’s disability grants.
The cleaning project comes at the start of disability rights awareness month which starts on 3 November and runs until the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December.
Baithuti Shasha, whose legs are amputated above the knee, sweeps the school grounds while moving around in a wheelchair. Shasha says he gets to work early to ensure the school is clean before learners arrive.
“I can’t just sit at home. Just staying in the location is not nice … You can end up using drugs and doing all sorts of wrong things,” says Shasha who lives in Dunoon’s Ekuphumuleni informal settlement.
A father of two young children, he says the cleaning job keeps him physically and mentally active. “Before, I was unable to fully provide for [my children and girlfriend] with the disability grant alone,” he says. “Now I’ll even be able to send financial support to my parents.”
Thobani Ngejani lives with his parents in Doornbach Kwa 5 informal settlement. He uses a cane and struggles to speak. He says his disability grant is mostly used to cover household expenses, so this job will give him more independence. Ngejani, who is also a DJ, says he enjoys maintaining the school premises. “It keeps me busy and stops me being depressed.”
John Beto, who was diagnosed with severe memory loss says: “I’m forgetful of things a lot and the job helps to bring back my memory.”
Pensioner Elese Beto, 63, supervises the group. Beto also struggles to walk after being injured in a taxi accident seven years ago. “Every day they work with me and are very punctual,” says Beto. She says the group cleans classroom windows, doors, toilets, and the general school grounds.
School principal Amos Siwayi says having the group on the school’s grounds has helped learners’ perception of people with disabilities. “Our community sometimes looks down on people with disabilities. Our pupils accept them as members of our society who are capable of doing things. At the same time the school is benefiting because it’s very clean,” says Siwayi.
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