Children with Disabilities left vulnerable during Covid-19

Children living with disabilities are even more exposed now with the pandemic, aggravating their state of marginalization and suffering.

” Teachers and support staff need to assist with home schooling and offer support to parents and
caregivers in the care of their disabled children.”

With the closure of schools during lockdown most children living with disabilities are left stranded at home, while others are being neglected. Some parents continue to pay expensive school fees, and have to hire someone for additional help for their kids at their expense. Some of these cases have been brought to the attention of SAPS and NCPD during Child Protection Week.

The National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) has expressed its grave concern for the conditions many children are subjected to at home during lockdown. “Not only are the heightened poverty conditions and the absence of food security a concern, but there is also grave concern over the impact of the demands of full-time care by parents and caregivers on the physical and emotional wellbeing of the child”, says André Kalis, specialist in advocacy, policies and children’s matters at the NCPD. The frustrations and demands related to the full-time care, often in crowded conditions, are a heavy burden for parents and caregivers to carry and can in some instances lead to the neglect, abuse and exploitation of the disabled child, says Kalis.

This is where the NCPD’s advocacy and lobbying role comes in. While the NCPD is advocating for special schools not to open now, it is also advocating for the Department of Basic Education to reach out to the children at home through their schools’ teachers. Teachers and support staff need to assist with home schooling and offer support to parents and caregivers in the care of their disabled children. “We want this outreach to children and their families at home to be a collaborative effort between the DBE, the Department of Social Development and organisations of and for persons with disabilities at ground level.”, Kalis said. He added that the NCPD has been very active in facilitating donations of food and distributing it to families of children with disabilities in areas across the country.

The NCPD is of the opinion that special schools should not reopen now while the Covid-19 infection rate is still climbing. “Many children with disabilities have underlying medical conditions and may be immune-compromised, placing them at risk of Covid-19 should they get infected.”, Kalis explained.

Kalis continued: “furthermore, social distancing of disabled learners who rely on assistance from others is not possible. Practicing regular hand sanitation and practicing personal hygiene are complex for many learners who may also need help with this. It is also problematic for many learners to wear face masks and many may need personal assistance.”

“We are of the opinion that special schools should only open after the epidemic has peaked and when the risk of contagion is dramatically reduced.”, Kalis concluded. If you need help contact them via email or SMS only: andre@ncpd.org.za| 0795478589.

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