Eighty students with intellectual disabilities studying at the Mount Fletcher Special School in the rural Eastern Cape can look forward to comfortable, warm nights this winter, thanks to a generous donation by Engen. Beds and mattresses valued at R250 000 will get the children off the floor where they have been forced to sleep after enrolment at the school in Xaxazana spiked this year.
“The situation has 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, 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 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 was unable to cope with the demand.
The Trust relies on funding from government departments and the private sector to empower people with disabilities. Donations from Engen also contribute to the Job Readiness Programme for unemployed people with disabilities and matric pupils at special needs schools.
“This programme assists them with choosing career paths, 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 include people with disabilities in its original corporate social investment (CSI) target areas, which included education, health and safety, and the environment.
Adhila Hamdulay, CSI manager at Engen, says that while this commitment to people with disabilities is indeed in line with the company’s 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 would probably 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 [in comfort] 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. Hamdulay concludes: “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.”