Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Department of Basic Education has earmarked R477m to support children with "intellectual disabilities" to access quality education.

A civil society report on the country’s response to the education needs of children showed that more than 597,000 children with disabilities in SA did not attend school in 2015, which is almost double the 280,000 estimated to have been left behind in 2001.

This is despite the Department of Basic Education telling Parliament’s portfolio committee that the number of special schools had increased since 2002 from 295 to 464 in 2015.

Civil-society organisations, including Inclusive Education, Section 27 and Human Rights Watch, have been urging Parliament to exercise its legislative and oversight functions to speed up the process of implementing Education white paper 6, the government’s policy on inclusive education.

Director of Inclusive Education SA Robyn Beere said while the allocated funds were welcome, they were due to a "court case finding against the Department of Basic Education, not as a result of improved funding efforts for inclusive education".

Beere said that none of the special schools had been declared no-fee schools, leaving the burden of costs to parents.

The department said it was finalising the policy which would ensure an inclusive education system was available, accessible, appropriate and of good quality for children with all types of disabilities.

Among the challenges to developing inclusive education, the department cited issues such as limited financial resources, poor understanding of disabilities, curriculum differentiation and prejudice.

According to the department’s February 2016 report on the implementation of inclusive education, 5,552 children with disabilities were on special schools’ waiting lists.

The department’s statistics for 2017 indicate that 11,461 children are on the waiting lists.

Minister Angie Motshekga has established an advisory committee made up of visual impairment community stakeholders who are advising it on the acceleration of the production of Braille material.

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