A decision to have a child is often a very important decision that any potential parent make. With the excitement that comes with pregnancy, many parents are excited to just learn the sex of their unborn baby. With each pronunciation of a normal baby, the dreams for that baby grow. Maybe he will grow up to be an engineer or a doctor. It hardly crosses the parents’ mind that their child could be anything but perfect despite the fact that a huge number of children are born with a disability. Most parent with children with special needs and disabilities are often dismayed when the time comes to get their children education.
There is more to catering for the disabled children’s education than building wheel chair ramps in main stream schools. Section 29 in the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution provides for the right to education, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1995 and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2007 are all the statutes that are meant to ensure that disabled children have access to education. Though milestones have been reached in catering for the physical disabled , there is still a long way to go.
Census 2001 revealed that there is almost half a million children living with severe disabilities and not all children who are disabled can function well in the main stream schools. Some children are severely handicapped that main stream school would not accept them, hence the need for special needs schools. Currently there are 423 special needs schools nationwide that are catering for approximately 105 000 learners. There are quite a few of these good schools in Johannesburg like Forest Town School, Hope schools and Sparrow school. These schools are doing a good job giving education to children who would be otherwise be sitting at home. These schools are equipped to take care of a child no matter how severe their disability is. They have a clinic wing, they have social workers, they have assistants who push the wheel chairs, take the children to bathroom and bath them if necessary. Some of the children cannot feed themselves and need consistent attention. Without these assistants it will be impossible for the teachers to teach.
The department of education does not pay for these assistants and social workers. Like any mainstream school, the special needs school get a grant from the department and also collect school fees. Only from the school fees can they pay for the non-teaching staff but like most schools in South Africa they are faced with parents who cannot afford to pay the school fees. They are forced to give school fees exemption with no recourse of recovering the money. Main stream schools are reimbursed by the department of education but the special needs schools are not reimbursed as the department argues that schools get higher grant than the main stream schools.
Another challenge that children with disability often face is that the schools with special needs are often far from their homes. And most of the children are not able to use public transport to get to school and the transport expense end up being a hindrance in getting education. While some children do get a disability grant which often helps with paying some expense some disabilities are often difficult to prove. Some children with learning disabilities often struggle to get disability grant as it is very hard to prove that they are disabled.
All I am saying is that it is good to have these laws but the authorities have to be willing to bend them to accommodate the special cases otherwise a huge number of children with disabilities education will remain just a dream.
Originally posted 2015-03-17 15:41:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter