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March 1, 2016

PRESS RELEASE: CHILDREN WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY HAVE A RIGHT TO ACCESS EDUCATION

PRESS RELEASE: CHILDREN WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY HAVE A RIGHT TO ACCESS EDUCATION

In August 2015, Human Rights Watch released a report highlighting South Africa’s failure to guarantee an inclusive education for children with disabilities (https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/08/18/complicit-exclusion/south-africas-failure-guarantee-inclusive-education-children). The report, titled “Complicit in Exclusion” found that over half a million children with disabilities in South Africa were not receiving education, and hundreds of thousands of children with disabilities, who do attend school, were not receiving the level of education they required.

 

 Other key findings included:

              Children with disabilities faced discrimination when trying to access public schools, and were often denied entry due to their particular disabilities or needs

              Students with disabilities in mainstream schools did not receive reasonable accommodation and had many barriers that stood in the way of receiving an education

              Children with disabilities who attend special schools were expected to pay school fees that children without disabilities did not, and those who attended mainstream schools were often expected to pay for their own class assistants as a condition of attending the school

              Children with disabilities in public schools often received low quality education in poor learning environments

 Despite the fact that the rights of children with severe and profound intellectual disability are enshrined in various pieces of national and international legislation, this report has shown that these children continue to be alienated from mainstream education. The perception persists that children with severe or profound intellectual disabilities have little or no educational needs or potential, and they are therefore not fully included in the educational system. This is a violation of these children’s basic human rights, and it is crucial that steps be taken to correct this.

 In response to this, SAFMH has over the past few years been supporting the Right to Education Campaign, which came about through partnership working between the Western Cape Forum on Intellectual Disability and the Legal Resources Centre. After ten years of negotiations, the case was eventually heard in the High Court in Cape Town on the 14th of June 2010, and judgment was delivered on the 11th of November 2010. The judgement placed the responsibility on provincial and national government to ensure that these children could access education of a high quality, that adequate funding was provided for such educational services, and that trained staff, transport and other required resources be made available. However, despite the court ruling, barriers to education persist and much work still needs to be done to make the court ruling a reality.

 The Right to Education has the potential to provide excellent results, as illustrated in some of the achievements in the Western Cape. These outcomes do however require persistent, ongoing efforts, and it is recommended that community-based organisations and mental health activists, supported by Mental Health Societies, become the driving forces and catalysts for change within the other 8 provinces.

 A Right to Education Toolkit was developed in partnership between SAFMH and Cape Mental Health during 2014, which was a tool to assist Mental Health Societies with the national roll-out of the Right to Education Campaign. These documents can be obtained from SAFMH.

The month of March is Intellectual Disability Awareness Month, and includes International Down Syndrome Day which takes place on the 21st of March. Throughout the coming month the South African Federation for Mental Health will be raising awareness about the right of children with severe and profound intellectual disabilities to access education as well as holding government accountable where such progress has not been made. SAFMH will be working with our partners in the mental health sector to spread the message and raise awareness about the fact that education for children with severe or profound intellectual disabilities can no longer be seen as a “nice to have”. It is an essential service that must be available to children across South Africa.

 

FOR ENQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Marthé Viljoen

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness 

SA Federation for Mental Health

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

011 781 1852