Eighty intellectually disabled pupils studying at the Mount Fletcher Special School in the rural Eastern Cape can look forward to comfortable, warm nights this winter, thanks to Engen’s donation of new beds.
The Engen handover of beds and mattresses on 8 June, totalling R250 000, will get the children off the floor where they have been forced to sleep after enrolment at the school in Xaxazana, Mount Fletcher, spiked this year. “The situation had become urgent, and we are extremely grateful to Engen for stepping up,” says Thabiso Phetuka, chief executive officer of the Eastern Cape Disability Economic Empowerment Trust, of which Engen is a partner.
The Eastern Cape Education Department provided bedding for the new beds, as well as water tanks for the school. Mount Fletcher Special School opened at the beginning of 2017, one of six such centres planned for the province by Education MEC Mandla Makupula in his 2017/18 budget to supplement the existing 43 special schools in the Eastern Cape.
Phetuka however identified the facility for urgent intervention this year as part of his Trust’s partnership with the provincial Education Department, after the centre proved unable to cope with the demand from intellectually disabled youngsters who ended up sleeping on the floor. The Trust relies on funding from government departments and the private sector to empower disabled people, with Engen’s donations already contributing to the Job Readiness Programme for unemployed people with disabilities and matric pupils at special needs schools. “This programme assists them with career pathing, making choices about further education, and preparation for their participation in the open labour market,” Phetuka explains.
Last year Engen extended its social investment focus to add people with disabilities to its original Corporate Social Investment (CSI) target areas, which included education, health and safety, and the environment. Adhila Hamdulay, Engen’s CSI manager, says while this commitment to people with disabilities is indeed in line with the company’s CSI goals, it is about much more.
“We know this is a key area of need, and the evidence lies in the fact that without our intervention, these learners may have had to spend the winter sleeping on the cold floor. “We are humbled to be able to play a part in improving this situation, and ultimately helping them to learn and succeed so they can fulfil their potential,” she says. More broadly, the support for Mount Fletcher Special School helps create an equitable society in South Africa.
“This is our contribution towards the creation of a society where people with disabilities can share access to every sphere of education, work and social life,” Hamdulay adds.