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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

‘Great need’ for special schools

4 March 2018

AT LEAST 3000 new schools for pupils with special needs need to be built to address the backlog, according to the Department of Basic Education (DBE). There are 453 public schools across the country for pupils with special education needs accommodating 119 259 pupils with various special needs.
“The DBE’s position in this regard is to aggressively mainstream the education of learners with moderate special education needs by designating mainstream schools to full service schools, a process that is already work in progress,” department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said. “Whatever needs the schools cater for, must be ones requiring high levels of support. Such cater for a variety of disabilities including hearing impairment, visual impairment, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy and autism.”
At the end of apartheid there were only about 380 special schools, which segregated pupils with disabilities from the mainstream schooling system almost entirely. During his maiden State of the Nation address last month President Cyril Ramaphosa said this year would mark the implementation of the first National Senior Certificate examination on South African Sign Language, which will be offered to deaf pupils at the end of 2018.

According to a handbook by advocacy group Section 27, despite the progress made in addressing the backlog, there are about 600000 children with disabilities who are out of school. “This high number indicates a crisis in the provision of basic education for children with disabilities,” the report noted.

Last week DA Gauteng shadow MEC for education Khume Ramulifho said a R300m special needs school in Gauteng had been opened but was still empty. Nokuthula LSEN School was opened last year in October and was expected to start operating at the start on the 2018 academic year. “We have been informed that the department is awaiting an occupational certificate from the city of Joburg. This confirms that the department builds schools without a proper plan in place and does not comply with the standard norms and rules,” Ramulifho said.

A South Africa Human Rights Commission brief in disability and equality in South Africa 2013-17 called on the DBE should to address the issue of out of school children with disabilities as well as the absence of reasonable accommodation for such children in schools.

Source: The New Age

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