Dad seeks help to get child into school

Silulama Bathembu, 49, is a desperate father who just wants to see his daughter go to school with other children.

His life has become solely dedicated to finding a special needs school for his daughter, Athi Bathembu, who contracted meningitis at the age of two.

Now 14, Bathembu says his daughter has never been to school because the disease affected her cognitive development and caused muscle contortions which need physiotherapy.

“I do not know how many doctors’ reports we have. I have been to the department (of education) numerous times filling in and renewing forms.

“We only got her disability grant when she was nine. That is the money I am using to crisscross the province, trying to get her admitted wherever I can.”

The distraught father says he removed his daughter from a special needs school in Komani, because he feared for her safety.

He said in one school she attended, he noticed she came home with marks on her body and he tried to enquire about them, but no answer was forthcoming.

“I was told she probably got them playing with the other children, but I was worried. If they could not tell me the cause, what else could happen to my child?”

Bathembu says he has now given up on employment because he has to give full-time attention to the needs of his daughter.

“Her mother and I are both unemployed. We live in a shack a church gave us. Although it is not in a living condition, we have no other means.

“I teach her what I can myself, so she has some understanding. I also help her with her physical exercises because it is hard to get regular physio appointments at the (public) hospital.”

Bathembu says all he needs is someone who can intervene in any way and help his daughter get education is a safe place.

Local NPO, Pioneers of Hope, which heard about Bathembu’s plight, is reaching out to people to partner with them and help the family.

“We just want to give Athi a happy life, a normal life. We want to help make her home child-friendly because their conditions are really bad. Just because she has a disability does not mean she should not learn or live in a proper home,” said Luthando Lingela, founder of Pioneers of Hope.

To help, contact 073-051 4464 or Pioneers of Hope at 083-973 8390.

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