(Johannesburg) – South Africa has made little progress in addressing the discrimination and exclusion faced by children with disabilities when accessing schools, Human Rights Watch and Section 27 said today. South Africa’s national government needs to take urgent action to demonstrate its commitment to inclusive education.
The doctors [at Manguzi Hospital] referred my son to Sisizakele [special school], and I was told that he would be placed on a waiting list and I would receive a call. I have still not received a call. He was delayed in learning to walk and talk, though he will laugh sometimes. Now he can even bathe himself. But he can’t read or write and is very slow at school, and still struggles to speak properly. The local school indicated that they couldn’t cope with him after he had been there for a year.
He is eight years old. He has been out of school for more than two years. Both my son and I are hurt that he is not in school. It means that the teachers think my son is nothing compared to other people.
The head of department at a special school said:
Some learners leave the school, and then find somewhere to do grade seven, and then receive further education. Others cannot, because they are fully dependent and would require another special school to do so, even if they could cope with the content of higher grades. [There are] three children currently at the school who have the potential to go to grade seven after being educated at [our special school]; but because they are in wheelchairs, they cannot be taken to another school.
A principal at a full-service school said:
It is more important to have transport, because there are learners with disabilities at the school. There is a grade four learner who is epileptic, and he does not want to walk so far and so will fight with his parents. There is another learner in the school who has a physical disability who walks far to school, and sometimes when she arrives she will complain that she feels sick and so she can’t learn. This child has a limp, and must walk 10 kilometers to school. One side of her body does not work properly.