The Sibanye Special Day-care Centre – a day care centre for special needs children aged three and over – held a talk entitled “How to care for a disabled child” at Samuel Ntlebi Primary on the 29 July as part of the Trading Live initiative. In attendance were three members from the Association for the Physically Disabled (APD) and the mothers of three special needs children who attend Sibanye.
Sibanye supervisor, Nomulangisa Maloni, opened by expressing her disappointment at the lack of turnout, but thanked everyone who took the time to come. “Today is about educating parents about how to care for children with disabilities, but it is also about changing the mindset of people towards special needs children,” she said.
“People are afraid of coming close to disabled children, others are laughing at them, teasing them, not knowing that you could be abled today but be disabled tomorrow,” Maloni said. “So our slogan here at Sibanye is ‘don’t laugh at us, laugh with us’ because we are human beings just like everyone else.”
Maloni said a mistake that parents often make is being over helpful with their children and perpetuating their dependency on their parents. “Many children arrived here unable to do things like hold a cup,” she said. “Let them be independent, let them do things on their own, because they can,” she said.
Another issue she raised was lack of discipline. “Many parents think ‘my child is disabled so I can’t say no to them’,” Maloni explained. “But unless you say no, they will repeat it tomorrow.”
Parents then shared their stories about how Sibanya has helped them and their children. Xoliswa Jacobs, mother of 7-year-old Luxolo who suffers from autism, explained the progress evident in her son since attending Sibanye. “He didn’t like crowded places, he wouldn’t listen when I told him to sit down and couldn’t drink for himself,” she said. “But now he can drink for himself, he listens, and he loves to play. And I thank Sibanye for that.”
Nomthandazo Mbanya, mother of five-year-old Linomtha who has been suffering from chronic seizires since the age of two, explained her financial difficulties. The transportation costs and the cost of sending Linomtha to Sibanye come about to R500 a month, which unemployed Mbanya can barely afford. Doctors say that her daughter cannot qualify for a disability grant, yet she has been turned away from mainstream schools for being unfit to attend. Despite the financial strain, Mbanya continues to send her daughter to Sibanye as it has been so beneficial to her.
APD committee member, Catherine Letcher, explained the important role Sibanye plays in facilitating the lives of the parents. “It gives the parents a chance to do their business, to make some income, allowing them to concentrate on their work knowing their child is safe here,” she said.
Maloni explained the difficulty of finding babysitters for disabled children due to negative perceptions held by people. “Nowadays if you ask a neighbour too look after your child, the next day they won’t want anything to do with the child,” she said.
Sibanye’s daily routine consists of opening prayer, music ring, physical exercise, creativity class, outdoor play, story and rest time. The children are also taught to wash their hands, brush their teeth and feed themselves.
Samuel Ntlebi Principal, Dumakazi Myemane, sees herself as a grandmother figure to the children. She often comes by throughout the day to spend time with them. “They are so sweet,” she said. “I love them.”
“They see their friends go to school, and it’s nice for them to also be able to do the same.” adds Letcher. “It’s a safe place, a place where they are loved, a place that gives them a purpose.”