Some parents of children with autism in Gauteng are financially relieved after the Gauteng department of education opened 12 schools that will cater for the needs of autistic pupils.
Autism is a mental condition characterised by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people, and in using language and abstract concepts.
The department spent about R320 million on building, refurbishing and extending 12 schools for children with autism and other special needs.
Selina Malusi, whose child is autistic, said she could not afford to pay the school fees in a normal autism school.
“The schools cost a lot of money, even my child’s grant could not cover half of it. The opening of this school is a financial relief for me and my family, it costs nothing and my child would receive the best care,” said Malusi.
Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi said an autistic child cost the department six times more than the average pupil.
“An average learner cost the department R11 000, so we multiply that by six with an autistic child,” said Panyaza.
Panyaza was speaking at the launch yesterday of Thulasizwe School for Autism in Orlando West, Soweto. He said the department was committed to creating opportunities for children with special needs.
Autism specialist, Claire Allen, said the school was going to provide pupils with basic needs.
“We are going to teach them a proper way of communicating and performing basic duties like going to the shop, buy what they are sent to buy, but also know how much the change is.”
The school currently houses 64 children in eight classes, with eight children per class. Allen said the school was looking to accommodate more pupils if it gets mobile classes because “there is a waiting list already”.
Four thousand children are still on the waiting list. Unlike other average schools which the MEC said cost about R50 000 a year excluding transportation, children at Thulaziswe would pay a minimal fee.
Lesufi assured parents he would “use whatever resources the department have to make sure the children receive the best care and education”.
“Those that are weak deserve our attention, and those that are vulnerable need our assistance,” he said.