Many disabled not at school
At least 400,000 disabled children of school-going age 'are not in the system'
THOUSANDS of disabled children are still not in the school system. This is despite meeting the target for the number of full-service schools nationally.
According to the Department of Basic Education (DBE), at least 400,000 disabled children of school-going age are not in the system.
Twelve years after the signing of the white paper on inclusive education, there are more than 500 full-service schools countrywide but they are not working as well as they should.
The white paper was meant to strengthen special schools but also to accommodate pupils with disabilities - but not intellectual problems - in mainstream schools.
Full-service schools are institutions that can accommodate children with disabilities and able-bodied ones. According to the paper, the Department of Basic Education was supposed to convert 500 primary schools into full-service schools.
According to the department, there are 513 full-service schools nationally.
Manager at Inclusive Education Western Cape Robyn Bath said: "A huge number of children are out of the school system."
She said that 2001 figures indicated that at least 280,000 disabled children were not in the school system.
The department says that their research indicates that at least 400,000 children of school-going age are out of the system.
Gauteng education spokesman Charles Phahlane said the hardest thing with running full-service school was funding.
"The biggest challenge with the implementation of full-service schools is that there isn't national norms and standards in place for additional funding and staffing for these schools," he said.
Infrastructure development is also a problem.
According to the national list, Ntuthuko Primary School in Katlehong is a full-service centre. But children with disabilities have not been able to get into the school because a contractor did not build ramps and toilets for disabled pupils.
The Department of Public Works gave a joint tender worth R6-million to Makhamabavele and DSST to do the job. They have already been paid R4.6-million. It is unclear when construction will resume.
Researcher in children's rights at the Community Law Centre of the University of Western Cape Lorenzo Wakefield said: "About 10% of children in South Africa live with a disability. Even though this percentage might seem small in relation to the general child population, the numbers of children with disability currently out of school is extremely high. The DBE is not addressing this as their plan acknowledges that they have shifted focus to the quality of education, considering that universal access has been reached."
Bath said that the implementation of inclusive education was flawed.
"There are systematic problems like overcrowding, transport and long waiting lists at schools."
The 2008 screening identification assessment and support (SIAS) strategy is under review. In the DBE's annual plans they stipulated that 100 schools would be trained on this.
Bath said: "This target clearly does not take into account the large number of schools that have already been trained in SIAS since 2008 and also reflects a very low percentage of all schools in the country." - email@example.com