Producer Blog: Time to Step Up

If nothing changes for the children at Kwezi Lukos and Sigcau after this report, we have all failed them – me, you, the Eastern Cape Department of Education and national government.

24 August 2018

As a documentary producer you spend your life looking at the underbelly of humanity; it’s our daily grind. Part of the job is to connect, empathise, but still remain neutral. Your feelings towards what a person has or has not done do not matter. You aren’t there to judge, you are there to get as close to the truth and then translate that truth into a TV show or film.  Every once in a while though there is a story that gets so deep under your skin that neutrality becomes incredibly difficult. The recent story on the special needs schools in the Eastern Cape was one such story for me.

I had been to visit both Kwezi Lukosa and Sigcau a few times before the actual shoot. My thinking was that, when we finally gained access, the Department of Education would make sure they at least tried to cover up how bad the situation was on the ground. But, lucky for us, there was no such initiative. In fact, what we saw on our official visits were in some ways worse than what I saw when no one knew who I was.

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Throughout this story I just kept thinking: but these are children! Vulnerable children who need someone to look after them. They need someone to have their backs! To me, there was no excuse for the way they were being treated. I felt that nothing that we were told was a valid excuse.

In my mind these kids with severe disabilities were taking better care of each other than any adult. They pushed each other’s wheelchairs around, they helped each other get dressed and served food to those who couldn’t. They are being forced to be adults when in fact they should be allowed to be children.

If nothing changes for the children at Kwezi Lukos and Sigcau after this report, we have all failed them – me, you, the Eastern Cape Department of Education and national government.

When we can no longer rely on the State to take care of vulnerable children, civil society has to step up to the plate. And so many of you did after this story aired. Anel Annandale made it her mission to find a child psychologist to assess Iviwe so we can try and get him properly placed. According to Iviwe’s report, he was never supposed to be in a special needs school and was therefore incorrectly placed. Anel has organised Nicole Buhr who will be doing the assessment near Sigcau on Monday 27 August.

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I have been helping Helana Olivier put together a list of needs; she is busy approaching NGOs and big business to come to the party. You can reach her directly on Helana.o@mweb.co.za if you want to get involved.

Then, Suré Tredoux is a body stress release practioner and recently did work with disabled children in Zambia and says they had “miraculous” results. She has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to spend a week at Kwezi Lukosa working with the children and training the teachers. You can support her project here.

This story, although difficult to tell, has shown once again that truth can bring change.