The number of disabled children waiting to be placed in special schools has doubled in the last year.
Cape Town - The number of disabled children waiting to be placed in special schools has doubled in the last year.

This emerged at a recent Parliamentary portfolio committee meeting when the Department of Basic Education presented its progress report on inclusive education and special needs education.

The report outlined the measures that are implemented to improve education for special needs pupils.

It also details a strategic focus up until 2021. The department claimed that there are approximately 11 461 disabled pupils who are waiting for schools.

In KwaZulu-Natal, there are approximately 2 769 disabled children on its list, the Eastern Cape has 2 160 children waiting and in the Western Cape 230 disabled students have been placed on the waiting list.

However, the figure has raised eyebrows by the opposition who insist that the waiting list could be higher.

“Well it's very difficult to be able to say for certain that it is 11 000, given that the previous figures place the number of disabled children not in school at 300 000,” said DA MP Sonja Boshoff.

Boshoff is currently questioning the validity of that figure and is calling on the department to give clarity on the number. South Africa has 715 full-service schools and 464 “special needs” schools. Boshoff said that the department needs an intervention strategy to look at a method that accommodates the needs of the children.

Dr Moses Simelane, the department's director for inclusive education, said: “The data of children living with disabilities who are out of school is close to being accurate since the department has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Social Development, Stats SA, the Department of Home Affairs, Sassa and the Department of Health.”

Boshoff said: “We need them to give us clarity and to give us progress reports.”

Boshoff also raised alarm bells when she reiterated the fact that if these pupils were not placed by the time they turned 16 they would be too old.

“The older they get the fewer opportunities there are.”

Boshoff also raised concerns regarding the cost of accommodating disabled pupils.

“At this stage I really don't think we can afford all these children. The department has made big strides, but we can't afford them,” she said. Education advocacy group Equal Education reiterated that no disabled pupil should be excluded from school.

“Learners who have disabilities that require them to be in special schools must have access to those schools - waiting lists are too long, and thousands of learners are sitting at home doing nothing,” said Nishal Robb, head of Equal Education Western Cape.

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Cape Argus