Half-million disabled South African children not in school

South Africa's Education Ministry responds to Human Rights Watch's report claiming that around 500,000 children with disabilities excluded from school.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

An estimated half-a-million children with disabilities have been shut out of South Africa’s education system.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says 500,000 disabled children have been excluded from the education system in South Africa while the government claims it has achieved success in the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of registering all children in primary schools by 2015.

However, the report by HRW says children are excluded from mainstream schools and forced to wait years for special schools.

Qinisela, the mother of an 8-year-old boy with Down’s syndrome interviewed with HRW and said they registered our children in a mainstream school but officials said they couldn’t do it because of the children’s disability. She also said that school promised to phone if there’s a space in a special school but they have been waiting since last year. 

Parents of children with disabilities were often asked to pay additional fees, HRW said.

According to HRW’s research, children who have disabilities confront both through physical barriers and people’s behaviour against them in five provinces. This often initiates at early ages of children when government officials divide them due to their disabilities.

Moreover, inadequate teacher training has been guided by officials who do not know how to interact with children with disabilities in school. In some situations, children be exposed physical violence, reports in HRW’s findings.

The government has regulated a policy since 2001 to terminate the exclusion of children who have disabilities but the government has not yet put into operations of the policy.

"The current system is ad hoc and expensive, and isolates children with disabilities from other learners and as a result, the government is failing hundreds of thousands of children with disabilities, violating its own policies and laws," Elin Martinez, who is the author and researcher of HRW said.


TRTWorld and agencies