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Johannesburg - At least 467,000 disabled children are not going to school, Deputy Minister for Children, Hendriette Bagopane-Zulu, said on Wednesday.
“This year alone, we have 467,000 children of school-going age who are not getting an education,” she said in Johannesburg.
“We have a mandate to reduce that and we are working with the department of basic education on that.”
She was speaking at the hand-over of an equality report to the department by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
Bagopane-Zulu said there would never be enough special schools and that at the moment there were children in special schools who should not be there.
“You don't need disabled kids subjected to special schools.”
The very same special schools did not have all the necessary basic requirements like ramps for children on wheelchairs or even functioning toilets, she said.
Bagopane-Zulu said a survey conducted by the department at over 100 special schools in the country showed that only three percent of those schools had the necessary basic needs.
She also spoke against parents who “dumped” their children at special schools and did not take an interest in their education.
Bagopane-Zulu said that with inclusive education, families would remain as units and disabled children would not have to be relocated to schools far away from home.
With a visual disability herself, the deputy minister recalled how she and Commissioner Bokakantla Malatji had to attend the same special primary school, and had experienced being away from their families as children because of their disability.
With November being identified as “disability month”, the SAHRC launched the equality report, highlighting some of government's shortfalls in realising and attaining the rights of people with disabilities.
“Children who are severely and profoundly disabled are denied access to education in both mainstream and special schools,” said Malatji when delivering the report.
According to the commission, about 10 percent of children with disabilities were not attending school in South Africa.
The commission pointed out that government had failed to comply with the obligations of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) and had yet to submit its report.
Despite some progress by the government, the commission was of the view that much more had to be done.
The deputy minister acknowledged some of the shortcomings, admitted that there were policies and programmes in place, but said putting them into practice was a problem.
She said the report by the commission would assist the department in working through all its challenges.
“We accept the report and will process the contents thereof. We also look forward to working with the commission.” - Sapa