Special needs support: speech by Minister Donald Grant at the 50th Anniversary of the Carel du Toit Centre for the Deaf | Western Cape Education Department

Special needs support: speech by Minister Donald Grant at the 50th Anniversary of the Carel du Toit Centre for the Deaf

Thank you for inviting me here today for this very special occasion.

I would like to acknowledge the Principal of Carel Du Toit, Ruth Bourne, and the former speakers. I was extremely touched by what you have said this morning.

While I acknowledge that the seed of this institution was planted in the mind of Carel Du Toit 50 years ago on his visit to the UK, the final vision of Professor Carl Du Toit 40 years ago, when the centre came into existence, is alive and well today at this very unique and extraordinary school.

This school is a place where dreams come true and miracles are made.

Every learner that leaves this school has been privileged to receive a wonderful gift from the educators at this school.

I sincerely thank all the educators, speech therapists, audiologists and other specialist staff that are involved. Your work is demanding and challenging, but I can imagine, one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.

Most of the learners that begin schooling here have very little understanding of language or sound - but yet when they leave, they leave with an understanding of the spoken and written language. They are also given the opportunity to become part of the hearing world and to enrol at mainstream schools.

This is wonderful gift that one is giving these young learners.

I am also aware that despite the hard work and challenges you face at this centre you are expanding this gift to help others. Many of you present here today are not aware that the Carel Du Toit Centre is sharing their levels of expertise and skills with other schools.

The educators are currently performing an outreach function, presenting workshops for surrounding schools about hearing impairment and improvement of language skills.

We are grateful for this sharing of best practice and I thank you for the time you have given to assist other educators as we expand access to learners with special needs at our mainstream schools.

Expanding access to quality education is one of this Government's priorities, and special needs education is no exception to this.

The Western Cape already leads the country in the provision of Special Needs Education both for high needs learners in Special Schools and increasingly for low and moderate support needs learners in our inclusive ordinary schools.

We have in this financial year, expanded our budget even further to accommodate and support learners with special needs. For instance, in the Western Cape the budget allocated to Special Needs amounts to R894.7 million. This represents an increase of R43 million from last year.

The majority of this budget is allocated to fund our teaching and specialised support staff, such as those that we fund here at this centre.

We are however investing a significant amount of funding in new technologies which can assist learners' needs according to their disabilities. For example, we recently launched the Braille e-readers which will revolutionize the quality of teaching and learning for visually impaired learners.

And at Carel Du Toit, the school recently received a number of Wall Pilot devices which convert learners sound devices frequencies as they move around the school.

We will continue to investigate new technologies to help improve the quality of special needs education in this province and we value the continued support of our partners in education, like the Provincial Department of Health, that are making Carel Du Toit's dream 40 years ago a reality.

In closing, following the thoughts of Professor James Loock, I am reminded of the quote by Helen Keller,
"It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision".

I am also sad that the Premier was unable to attend today due to other commitments as the hearing impaired are close to both her and my heart.