SA govt failing disabled children- HRW report

Johannesburg – South Africa’s government is failing to provide education for children with disabilities, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

“The South African government has failed to guarantee the right to education for many children and young adults with disabilities, affecting an estimated half a million children,” the organisation said in its World Report 2017, which was released in Washington on Thursday.

It is an annual review of human rights issues around the globe.

Contrary to the government’s international and domestic obligations, many disabled children still do not have equal access to primary or secondary education and face multiple forms of discrimination and barriers when trying to get into schools, Human Rights Watch said.

“They are turned away from mainstream schools, denied access to inclusive education, and referred instead to special schools by school officials or medical staff, simply because they have a disability.”

The schooling referral system needlessly forces children to wait for up to four years at care centres or at home for placement in a special school. 

While education in mainstream government schools is free, children with disabilities who attended special schools are forced to pay fees.

According to the report, many disabled children in mainstream schools are asked to pay for their own class assistants as a condition to stay in these schools.

“Once in school, many children with disabilities do not have access to the same curriculum as children without disabilities. Many children with disabilities are exposed to high levels of violence and abuse by teachers and students.”

South Africa’s government has failed to implement key aspects of a national policy adopted in 2001, which is meant to provide inclusive education for all children with disabilities.

“South Africa has not adopted legislation that guarantees the right to inclusive education for children with disabilities.”

The majority of the government’s limited budget for pupils with disabilities is allocated to special, segregated schools rather than to inclusive education, according to the report.

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