Feb 2021 1st Edition

There is help for struggling pupils

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

Teachers of pupils with multi-intellectual disabilities can help shape their future by offering effective guidance.

Pupils who struggle with basic things such as reading, writing or calculating are not incapable of learning but need to be pointed in the right direction, says education counsellor Portia King. 

King says that teachers must look for signs that pupils are struggling, including an inability to keep up with other pupils when it comes to writing or understanding.

She says: “Pupils who have difficulty learning can show varying symptoms, such as not being able to spell [simple words] by the time they are in Grade Four. Some pupils struggle with numbers whilst also not doing well in subjects that don’t need a lot of counting.”

To ensure that a pupil with learning difficulties is helped, King suggests teachers engage with parents to develop a learning programme for the child. She says if this does not help, another option is to consider enrolling a pupil in a school where there will be less academic theory and more of a vocational learning programme.

“Pupils with learning difficulties can be best taught through vocational training as this is more of a practical education and artisan skills development programme than it is academic. With vocational education, pupils learn through doing more than they do from reading a book.”

A fitting example of how vocational training can assist pupils can be seen at Olympia School of Skills in George in the Western Cape. The 475-pupil school offers vocational education to pupils who have been identified as not coping at academic schools.

Principal Gerhard Haupt says that the school hones the artisan skills of its pupils. Haupt says: “We take pupils from the age of 15 years who have been identified as having learning difficulties. Pupils are identified by teachers at primary school level. The teachers recommend pupils for enrolment at our school through the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) district office in the Southern Cape.”

In order for a pupil to be enrolled at the school, a teacher must contact the district DBE office, which will then do an assessment to determine if the child should be enrolled there.

In addition to having learning difficulties, a learner must have failed twice at primary school level for them to be considered for enrolment.

Once enrolled, pupils will be taught vocational subjects such as needlework, bricklaying, agriculture and welding, as well as mathematics and life skills.

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