/ 14 December 2018

Building solid foundations

The Oasis Skills Development Centre helps those with disabilities to gain skills and support themselves
Change is pain: Enoch Godongwana says that, in several areas, growth has been too slow and the benefits of change have been narrowly distributed. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)

Research has proven time and again that the first five years of a child’s life form the foundation for the rest of their lives. For many South African children, inequalities begin in that foundation phase because of limited access to resources.

In 2015, the NLC issued a special call for applications for Early Childhood Development (ECD). This Legacy Project saw over 200 ECD centres share around R500 million for either state-of-the-art buildings or fully equipped ‘edutainers’ to ensure that the foundations of learning are built in surroundings conducive to learning.

The Oasis Skills Development Centre in Upington is a special needs ECD that runs skills development courses for the disabled, and while other ECD buildings received an average of R3.8 million, Oasis received R5 102 145 due to its unique requirements.

Describing itself as a centre that focuses on “basic academic education, therapeutic activities, stimulation and skills transfer through income-generating projects”, Oasis provides children, youth and adults with multiple disabilities with assistance, support, training and guidance. The centre’s pre-school facility teaches school readiness while the main teaching area provides education for severely disabled learners who are unable to attend mainstream schools. When the school was founded, the research showed that around 160 000 people were living with disability in the area — the highest prevalence in the country.

Oasis Skills Development Centre also runs intervention programmes and teaches life and survival skills to young adults. These skills empower them to become self-employed, economically active and confident enough to support themselves financially. The centre is also committed to creating job opportunities for teachers and trainers, while giving people the opportunity to enhance their skills so they can find work.

It was also developed in line with the white paper that examined the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that was approved in 2015. The paper outlined the need for institutions to remove the barriers to access and participation for disabled people and to allow for the creation of environments that cater for their unique needs. Many students drop out of school and give up on a prosperous future, and the Oasis Skills Development Centre is designed to help them engage with their education while recognising the challenges that they face on a daily basis.

Often those who live with disabilities, particularly in remote and rural areas, lack the support they need to get an education or build skills and find work. The Oasis Skills Development Centre is committed to giving parents and children with disabilities a space for capacity building, education and training. The laboratory on the Oasis premises has 22 computers, a server for internet access and a printer. The courses that are included in the curriculum include those in art, furniture building and garden wares. In addition, there is a food garden that is used to teach valuable self-sustaining skills while providing nutritious meals for the local community.

The learners gain experience in basic literacy and numeracy as well as basic computer literacy, critical skills for any individual looking for employment today. Thanks to the work done by the centre, anyone can use their own two hands to build a future.

The Oasis Skills Development Centre runs day centres to support young children with severe visual, auditory or visual disabilities. They are grouped into classes according to their mental age and developmental levels and receive specialised care such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy. The workers are provided with residential care and Oasis provides a protected place of employment for more than 300 disabled adults. It also manages payment options against family capacity to pay, so those who come from underprivileged homes are subsidised according to their family income.

For the NLC, the Oasis Skills Development Centre is an ideal fit for its ECD Legacy Project for the lasting impact that it will leave in Upington.

Management at Oasis have created an environment that provides sustainable support to those who need it the most, giving them confidence to live their lives and build their careers.

Overcoming disability with innovation

The Kgaratlho Project for the Blind in Mafikeng provides socioeconomic empowerment and skills development for those who are visually impaired. The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) approved the project for a grant of R357 561 to reach the disadvantaged members of their community with their services.

The North West province has an estimated 6 000 NGOs, of which a large percentage are inactive. As a result, the NLC has prioritised the area as one that needs improved access to NLC services and funding. During FY 2017/18 the NLC’s focus has seen the area receive a total allocation of R120 141 814 and create 991 jobs.

The Kgaratlho Project for the Blind is focused on addressing the challenges that those with visual disabilities face and helps them to develop the skills they need to lead fulfilling, independent lives. The organisation empowers community members by giving them training in skills that can be used to generate income. The goal is twofold: empower and inspire those who live with visual disabilities and simultaneously alleviate poverty by generating a steady income.

The project gives those with visual disabilities an exceptional level of care, support and protection services alongside its skills development programmes. It is also committed to conducting awareness and advocacy campaigns to further the rights of those who struggle with visual disabilities.