Apr 2016 2nd Edition

Equal access education for all

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
Children with disabilities should have access to a decent education close to their homes by 2021.

Speaking during the 2016 National Disability Rights Summit, President Jacob Zuma said government was putting plans in place to ensure that children with disabilities were accommodated and supported in local schools.

President Zuma said children with disabilities should be able to attend schools close to their homes and receive the necessary support.

“Our goal, as government, is to ensure that by 2021, no children with disabilities will be out of school,” said President Zuma.

The summit was organised by the Department of Social Development to analyse and convert the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into realisable outcomes through practical implementation.

During the summit, delegates welcomed the approval by Cabinet of the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as a new era of activism in promoting, protecting and upholding the rights of all persons with disabilities in South Africa, and also called for legislation to be put in place to advance disability rights.

President Zuma said more than 6 850 students with disabilities have been enrolled at higher education institutions, and that over 2 800 have been enrolled at Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges in 2014.

The President also said more needs to be done to ensure that deaf South Africans are able to access information and communication.

Government introduced the South African Sign Language curriculum at school level from January 2015.

Deaf South Africans continue to experience high levels of marginalisation and exclusion due to a general lack of understanding, lack of South African Sign Language proficiency, and the availability of and expense associated with professional sign language interpreter services. This limits the social participation and integration of deaf persons.

Improving the lives of people with disabilities

One of the key issues the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities aims to look into is strengthening disability equity evidence collection to ensure persons with disabilities have equal access to opportunities, lifelong learning, training and capacity building and all other services and interventions.

In this regard, the Department of Social Development has started a project to collect more data on disability in the country.

This includes tracking statistical disability trends including a disability monograph and development indicators; investigating whether persons with disabilities are considered and integrated into government programmes and policies; as well as the development of a Disability Inequality Index – a comparison between persons with disabilities and persons without disabilities.

The Department of Social Development is also working with Statistics South Africa to develop a Database on People with Disabilities. 

The Department of Social Development stated that ultimately, government wants to be able to determine persons with disabilities’ enrolment and completion rates for early childhood development (ECD), general education and training, further education and training, higher education and training, and technical vocational education and training; their rate of employment in both the public and private sectors; as well as the political representation of persons with disabilities. Government aims for a five percent improvement in these indicators by 2019.


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