Peter Luhanga - November 20, 2022

  • A team of ten disabled people has been employed to keep Sophakama Primary school clean
  • Wages are used to support themselves, and able-bodied family members
  • School children learn disabled people are productive members of society

A group of Dunoon residents have refused to let their disabilities confine them, having taken responsibility for cleaning services at Sophakama Primary school in the township.

The group of ten disabled residents have signed a six-month contract, starting 17 October, to provide cleaning services which will provide income to supplement the disability grants they receive.

Baithuti Shasha, whose legs are amputated above the knee, sweeps the school grounds while moving around in a wheelchair, arriving at work early in the morning to ensure the school is clean before the pupils arrive.

“I know how to wake up very early in the morning like everyone else to report for work. I can’t just sit at home. Just staying in the location is not nice…you can end up using drugs and doing all sorts of wrong things,” says Shasha who lives in Dunoon’s Ekuphumuleni informal settlement.

He says the cleaning job keeps him physically and mentally active.
The father of two children aged nine and 13 says the earnings from the school cleaning job helps to fully provide for his children and girlfriend.

“Before, I was unable to fully provide for them using the disability grant alone,” he says, “Now I’ll even be able to send financial support to my parents.”

Thobani Ngejani, 22, lives with his parents in Doornbach Kwa 5 informal settlement. He walks with the support of a cane and struggles to speak.

He says the job opportunity is very good for him as as the disability grant was used by his parents for all households needs. Now the earnings from the job will enable him buy toiletries of his choice.

Ngejani, who is also a DJ, says he enjoys maintaining the school premises as it gives him exercise. “It keeps me busy, not to be depressed and not to think about bad things.”

Sinoxolo Tofi, 22, who also lives in Doornbach Kwa 5 informal settlement, says the cleaning job is “very great” as it enables him to support his niece whose mother is unemployed, as well as enables him to assist his unemployed mother.

John Beto, 54, who sufferes memory loss, says the cleaning job helps him to remember things.

“I’m forgetful of things a lot and the job helps to bring back my memory,” says Beto

Pensioner Elese Beto, 63, is the group’s supervisor. A minibus taxi accident seven years ago left her leg injured and she struggles to walk.

She the group is very disciplined and reports for work on time with no excuses.
“Everyday they work with me and they are very punctual at work,” says Beto.

She says their work involves cleaning classroom windows, doors, toilets, and school grounds.

School principal Amos Siwayi says the group has led pupils to see that disability does not prevent people from being able to work and be productive members of society.

He says this also helps counter the discrimination disabled people often suffer.

“Our community sometimes looks down on people with disability. So our pupils are getting used to them at a young age, they accept them as members of our society capable of doing things, and at the same time the school is benefiting, it’s very clean and healthy,” said Siwayi.

Marking the start of disability rights awareness month – observed annually from 3 November up until the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December – Western Cape Minister of Social Development Sharna Fernandez stated the key to upholding the rights of persons with disabilities begins with “each of us viewing our daily activities” through the lens of inclusivity and accessibility.

“The barriers faced by persons with disabilities are often imposed by society. Therefore, it is our responsibility to create environments that encourage inclusivity and integration,” stated Fernandez.

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