We, the People, are Complicit in the Rights Violations and Deprivations of Disabled Children

The preamble of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) has the following to say about children with disabilities:

Recognizing that children with disabilities should have full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children, and recalling obligations to that end undertaken by States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child…”

ALL the rights stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child are equally applicable to children with disabilities.

The Preamble begins by saying all the States that are party to the Convention (those who have signed it) are recognising this statement about the rights of children with disabilities. South Africa is a signatory to the Convention and, therefore, obliged to see to it that children with disabilities “should have full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children…”

When considering the government’s numerous and blatant rights denial of the most vulnerable children, it is in contravention of the obligations to which it committed itself. Contravening its pledge is disgraceful and an indictment against our country and its people.

We should all hang our heads in shame!

These rights denials are not even veiled, they are open and blatant, like the exclusion of children with disabilities from an equal education and denying them assistive devices which are essential to exercise fundamental human rights. There are many more infringements on the rights of children with disabilities for which the government is to be blamed. Even more incomprehensible is the fact that those duty bearers in the state responsible for ensuring children with disabilities access to their rights, don’t seem to be concerned about their discrimination against our children. They are dragging their feet, reluctant to allocate sufficient resources and have a lax attitude while children are suffering in their millions.

And we the people are allowing it. The reason why the government is allowed to get away with such atrocious ommissions is that we the people are allowing it to be so irresponsible, negligent and plain abusive towards the country’s children with disabilities.

We are not holding the government to account and are therefore complicit in what I regard as a crime against humanity.

What are we going to do? The responsibility rests with you and me to say enough is enough and collectively demand from the government to respect children with disabilities, to honour their dignity and to stop this crass disregard for and rejection of their fundamental human rights.


If we rise in unison, if we make a stand in our masses against the government’s violations of the inalienable rights of our children, we will shake it into action.

We need to raise our voices, not to shout but to ensure the plight of those without a voice, is heard.

The People of South Africa must Accept Responsibility for the Deprivations and Rights Violations of the Country’s Disabled Children

Children with disabilities are the worlds most exposed and vulnerable group

Considering how communities, society and the government treat South Africa’s children with disabilities, how they are marginalised and denied even their most fundamental rights, let us reflect on the following extract from the Integrated National Disability Strategy, 1997:

Among the yardsticks by which to measure a society’s respect for human rights, to evaluate the level of its maturity and its generosity of spirit, is by looking at the status that it accords to those members of society who are most vulnerable, disabled people, the senior citizens and its children

(There is no group in the world more vulnerable than children with disabilities).
It pains me to derive from the above quote that the South African society ranks very low when it comes to its respect for human rights with specific reference to the rights of persons and children with disabilities. We can also deduce that our society is not very mature and has a less than generous spirit. These unfavourable characteristics are a severe indictment against the people of South Africa and the government as elected by the citizens of the country. Since South Africa is a constitutional democracy and the citizens choose the government, one is compelled to view the actions and inactions, omissions and transgressions, as the representative will of the majority of people and that it carries the approval of the majority of citizens. The people of South Africa must account for the deprivations, disrespect and disregard South Africa’s children with disabilities suffer.  

Is it fair to conclude from the above that South Africa is indeed a very disablist society?

Isn’t it sad and ironic that our country and its people that have achieved so much to build a politically free and democratic society with a world-class constitution, is severely lacking in its values and morals? Does our country lack the moral fibre to honour the human rights of persons with disabilities and the most fundamental child rights of disabled children? Should we as a nation confess that we do in fact not possess a very generous spirit?

Seemingly, the people of South Africa have not reached the level of maturity, collective care and social conscience characterised by a broad sense of concern for the realisation of rights and the well-being of children with disabilities and disabled people in general.

The tragic lack of respect and concern for the most vulnerable challenges us to do more to transform people’s perceptions and attitudes towards children and persons with disabilities. The country’s humanitarian institutions, rights bodies, citizens with a social conscience, disability organisations, parents of disabled children and persons with disabilities are challenged to combat disablism (disability discrimination), prejudices and negative stereotypes that prevail in the land.

We will need to awaken as the people of the country to take collective responsibility for the dismal state of our society’s most vulnerable and join hands to combat the deprivations and flagrant human rights abuses so prevalent in our communities.

The status quo of societal neglect and disregard for children with disabilities and their severe exclusion and marginalisation calls for urgent and dramatic action. The power is in the hands of the people and the time is long overdue for collective corrective action affording disabled children their rightful place in a society where persons with disabilities are celebrated as part of a diverse society.

Another Authoratative International Organisation Laments the Rights Violations against South Africa’s Children with Disabilities

A group of disabled children of school going age languishing in a poorly resourced care centre

I quote as follows from the Human Rights Watch Reportto the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities concerning South Africa: (The full report covering the conditions of all persons with disabilities can be accessed here:


In August 2015, Human Rights Watch released our report “Complicit in Exclusion”: South Africa’s Failure to Guarantee Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities,” documenting barriers to inclusive, quality education for children with disabilities in South Africa. Many of the barriers we documented persist today, although Human Rights Watch acknowledges that the government has progressed in some critical areas detailed in this submission.[1]

Major barriers faced by children with disabilities include very long referrals to special schools and lengthy waiting lists, school fees and additional school-related costs, a lack of reasonable accommodation, and transportation issues. Parents and families also lack access to adequate information about their children’s disabilities, the necessary support services to assess the best interests of their children, or the best type of education for them. Consequently, across the country, hundreds of thousands of children with disabilities are excluded from inclusive schools, and are needlessly placed in special schools. Special schools are exclusively for children with disabilities, where they are segregated from other children and their communities. They are intended to accommodate children with high levels of support and needs; many existed prior to the government adopting an inclusive education policy.

South Africa’s constitution protects the right to a basic education, and protects individuals from any discrimination, including on the grounds of race and disability,[2] but the government has not adopted legislation that guarantees and/or protects the right to inclusive education for children with disabilities. Despite the government’s international and domestic obligations, many children with disabilities do not have equal access to inclusive primary or secondary education and face multiple forms of discrimination and barriers. To date, children with disabilities pay school fees and additional fees that children without disabilities are not required to pay.

In 2001, the government adopted “Education White Paper 6: Special Needs Education,” a national policy to provide inclusive education for all children with disabilities within 20 years,[3] but key aspects of the policy have yet to be implemented. For instance, the government allocates resources for learners with disabilities for special schools, to the detriment of inclusive education. Human Rights Watch’s research shows that the government will not meet its inclusive education targets by 2021, due to fundamental gaps in the implementation of this policy.

In December 2015, the government adopted “White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” South Africa’s national policy concerning the rights of people with disabilities, which integrates obligations of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including the right to inclusive education.[4]

There is also a lack of disaggregated and transparent data concerning current numbers of children with disabilities who remain out of school. In 2013, the government estimated that more than half-a-million children with disabilities remained out of school.[5] Human Rights Watch notes that various government departments have agreed to improve data collection on children with disabilities. However, to date, the government has not published accurate or reliable data that shows how many children remain out of school or on waiting lists for public schools.[6]

Access to Quality, Inclusive Education (Articles 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 16, 24)

Discrimination Accessing Compulsory Education

Basic education is compulsory in South Africa: all children should be in school by the age of compulsory education, mandated as 5 to 6 years for grade R or pre-school, and 7 to 15 years for basic education.[7] In 1996, the Schools Act directed the Minister of Basic Education to publish a government gazette with the compulsory age requirements for “learners with special education needs.” As of January 2018, this document had not been published.

Many children with disabilities face discrimination when accessing all types of public schools. Evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch suggests that a lack of governmental oversight of waiting lists and placements leaves school officials with the last word on enrolling learners, further delaying children’s entry into schools beyond the age of compulsory education. Many mainstream schools deny children with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities a place in mainstream schools in their neighborhoods or communities. Human Rights Watch found that social workers, district education officials, and health workers most often refer children to special schools based on their disabilities. The referrals system, overcrowding, and special schools operating at maximum capacity means children can wait for up to four years at care centers or at home for placement in a special school.[8] The Department of Basic Education’s statistics for 2017 indicate that 11, 461 children with disabilities are on school waiting lists.[9]

When children are placed on long waiting lists or turned down by special schools, parents face the burden of having to find alternatives for their children, including special schools further away from their homes or communities. Consequently, they are not always able to register children in the most adequate school. Travelling to schools to register children can be a very costly activity for many parents who already struggle to pay for basic needs. (For more information on school fees and school-related costs, see “Lack of access to free quality education” below).[10]

Discriminatory Fees and School-Related Costs

South Africa’s legislation does not guarantee the right to free education to all children. The high cost of education, including school fees and other school-related costs, continues to be a significant barrier keeping children with disabilities out of school.[11] Public schools are not automatically free of charge. While many are “no fee” schools, no special schools fall into that category. Fees in special schools typically range from R350-R750 (US$32-$68) per term.[12] In many cases, parents reported not having access to fee waivers. Most children with disabilities and their parents and caregivers have to pay additional costs, such as uniforms, food, transport, personal assistants to help them, and boarding costs if schools are located far from homes. Many, if not most families, are not able to pay these costs, which leads to children staying at home.[13]

In 2017, senior government officials indicated their intention to review school fees for children with disabilities, but did not adopt any policy changes at the beginning of the school year in January 2018.[14]

Lack of Quality Education and of Reasonable Accommodation

Once in school, many children with disabilities do not have access to the same curriculum as children without disabilities nor to the necessary appropriate materials they require, including assistive devices and services in Braille or sign language. Many students in mainstream schools face discriminatory physical and attitudinal barriers they need to overcome in order to receive an education. We acknowledge progress made by the Department of Basic Education with regards to the progressive provision of resources for learners who are blind or have low vision. Furthermore, we note that the Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) policy is being progressively implemented with a view to full implementation by 2019.[15] However, our findings indicate that insufficient resources, due in part to a lack of adequate financing allocated to inclusive education by regional governments, and qualified personnel mean the policy is not being implemented consistently everywhere, particularly in rural areas and under-resourced townships.[16]

Children with disabilities are significantly affected by a lack of teacher training and awareness about inclusive education methodologies and the diversity of disabilities, a dearth of understanding and practical training about children’s needs according to their disabilities, and an absence of incentives for teachers to instruct children with disabilities. Many children with disabilities drop out of education due to a combination of negative attitudes, teacher neglect, and absence of targeted and adapted learning in classrooms.

In many cases, Human Rights Watch met children who were moved up or down different grades by teachers and school officials, often without any proof that they had learned sufficient skills and content to proceed or evidence that they needed to repeat a grade. Some children had also repeated the same grade for more than two or three years, without any attention given to their particular needs and strengths. Many children with disabilities were not able to read or write despite being in school for many years.

Many students in special schools for children with sensory disabilities (children who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or have low vision) do not have access to the same subjects or appropriate learning materials as children in mainstream schools.[17] Human Rights Watch also found that physical facilities at public schools were not always accessible, for example, schools lacked ramps to access classrooms or toilets. This means that children who used wheelchairs or had other mobility issues need to be carried by someone, often a personal assistant they must pay for or rely on other students to carry or assist them.

National Resources for Inclusive Education

Allocation of resources for inclusive education remains a concern. The majority of the limited budget for students with disabilities continues to be allocated to special schools rather than to inclusive education.[18] Most mainstream schools do not have additional budget lines to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities.

In 2015, the government communicated its intention to publish Draft National Norms And Standards For Resource Distribution For An Inclusive Education System, which have a binding effect on the national and provincial governments once they are adopted.[19] In September 2017, Minister of Basic Education, Mrs. Angie Motshekga, announced the proposal of new National Guidelines for Resourcing an Inclusive Education System,[20] which only provide guidance but have no binding effect on governmental institutions. These Guidelines have not yet been shared with civil society.

Violence, Abuse, and Neglect in Schools

Students are exposed to violence and abuse in many of South Africa’s schools, but children with disabilities are more vulnerable to such unlawful and abusive behaviour. Human Rights Watch documented, and was made aware of, numerous cases of physical violence, and neglect of children and young adults with disabilities in mainstream, full-service, and special schools.[21] These included serious cases of physical violence by teachers and students against children with autism–at times to discipline them—bullying from teachers and peers, and various instances of neglect of children with disabilities living in boarding schools. Children with disabilities are often exposed to bullying, physical abuse, and derogatory language on buses, in taxis, and pick-up trucks.[22]

Despite existing constitutional protections from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation, as well as a clear ban on corporal punishment and psychological abuse in schools since 1996, there is no legally enforceable national protocol to tackle corporal punishment and sexual abuse in public schools.[23] A pervasive culture of silence remains in schools, leading to insufficient accountability for perpetrators of sexual assault or violence against learners, particularly girls.[24]

Lack of Preparation for Life After Basic Education

The consequences of a lack of inclusive quality learning are particularly visible when adolescents and young adults with disabilities leave school.  Most of the adolescents and young adults with disabilities interviewed by Human Rights Watch left school without the knowledge and tools needed to live an independent, engaged life within their communities.

While a comparatively small number of children with disabilities, predominantly students with sensory disabilities, successfully pass the national secondary school certificate, or matric, many adolescents and young adults with disabilities stay at home after finishing compulsory education; many lack basic life skills. Their progression into skills-based work, employment, or further education is affected by the type and quality of education available in the special schools they attend.

National statistics show that the majority of persons with disabilities do not attend higher or tertiary education.  Students who live in urban areas and who have mild to moderate physical disabilities, have low vision or are blind, have higher chances of graduating from secondary education and proceeding on to university, compared with students with other disabilities outside major urban areas.  Students who are deaf or hard of hearing, defined as “severe difficulty in hearing,” have lower rates of attainment of higher education.

In contrast, Human Rights Watch found that children with multiple disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and autism had minimal to no chances of proceeding beyond basic education. Adolescents and young adults with these disabilities who had not finished compulsory education faced limited opportunities to resume basic education or gain practical skills.[25]

Human Rights Watch recommends to the Committee that it ask the government of South Africa:

  • How does the government ensure that it produces and publishes adequate data on school enrolments and retention, disaggregated by age, grade, gender, and disability?
  • How does the government ensure families of children with disabilities have adequate information on how to access basic services for their children?
  • What binding measures has the government taken to ensure provincial governments respect and fulfill the right to inclusive education of children with disabilities? Is the government planning on adopting legislation to provide specific protections to children with disabilities and guarantee inclusive education?
  • What steps has the government taken to allocate adequate financing for inclusive education, and to ensure provincial governments allocate adequate funding for inclusive education?
  • Why do schools charge fees for children with disabilities? What measures has the government adopted to ensure children with disabilities have access to inclusive education, on an equal basis with children without disabilities, particularly in rural and remote areas?
  • What concrete measures has the government taken to enrol in the education system children with disabilities who are currently out of any school?
  • What steps has the government taken to improve the quality of education in mainstream and special schools?
  • What steps have been taken to ensure reasonable accommodation to allow children with disabilities to access education without discrimination?
  • What steps has the government taken to ensure school officials who discriminate against children with disabilities are held accountable?
  • What steps has the government taken to address violence and abuse in schools, including investigating and prosecuting perpetrators, where appropriate?
  • What steps has the government taken to adopt a national protocol against corporal punishment and sexual abuse in public schools?
  • How does the government ensure investigations of abuse of children or young people with disabilities are adequately conducted, and in full respect of their legal capacity?
  • What programs, if any, are available for children with disabilities who do not complete basic education within the legal age limits?
  • What programs are in place to provide adequate support and equal education opportunities for children with disabilities after they finish basic education?

Human Rights Watch recommends the Committee call upon to the government of South Africa to:

  • Publish accurate and transparent data on the number of children with disabilities who are out of school, those who are on waiting lists for special schools, and those who have dropped out.
  • Ensure access to free and compulsory primary education and to secondary education, including developing a detailed plan of action for the immediate realization of free compulsory primary education, in line with its constitutional duties and responsibilities under international human rights law.
  • Adopt a strong and well-resourced framework for funding of inclusive education to ensure all provincial governments allocate adequate levels of funding for inclusion, public special schools are adequately funded, and ensure they qualify as “no fee schools.” Prohibit all public ordinary schools from imposing financial conditions on children with disabilities that children without disabilities would not incur, such as transportation and reasonable accommodations in classrooms.
  • Adopt stronger legal protections for children with disabilities to complement the South African Schools Act. This includes a clear duty to provide reasonable accommodation in public ordinary schools, accompanied by specific provisions that prevent the rejection of students with disabilities from schools in their neighborhood. This should apply at all school levels, in transportation, and other essential services.
  • Adopt a national protocol against corporal punishment and sexual abuse in public schools.
  • Ensure students with disabilities have access to adequate support and equal education opportunities after they finish basic education.
  • Ensure young people with disabilities have access to meaningful employment opportunities, including technical and vocational opportunities.

10 Rights Violations of South Africa’s Children with Disabilities

1.    The Denial of the Right to an Education and an Equal Education

2.    The Denial of the Right to Assistive Devices

3.    The Denial of the Right to Quality and Equal Early Childhood Development Services

4.    Their General Marginalisation and Exclusion from Mainstream Society

5.    Society’s Failure to Adequately Protect them from Neglect, Abuse and Exploitation

6.    Their Exclusion from Play, Recreational, Social and Cultural Activities

7.    The Denial of their Right to Access Justice as Victims of Crime

8.    The Denial of their Right to Quality and Equal Health and Rehabilitative Services

9.    Their Alienation, Exclusion and Stigmatisation because of Cultural Superstitions

10.                       The Denial of their Right to be Free from Poverty

10 rights violations.png

Nine Major Disability Rights Violations in South Africa

I am deviating from the exlusive focus on children with disabilities with this blog post because I think it is crucial information about all persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities.

Nine Examples of Major Disability Rights Violations in South Africa

  1. The unacceptably high rate of unemployment of persons with disabilities which points to discrimination against them, preventing them from participating in economic activities on an equal basis with non-disabled people. Both the government and the entire employment sector are guilty of excluding persons with disabilities from employment. The government is failing to reach their target of a 2% employment rate of persons with disabilities, and the private sector is dragging its feet to implement objectives for the employment of persons with disabilities. A 2% employment target is, in fact, deficient considering persons with disabilities make up at least 7.5% of the South African population. The government does not regulate the employment of persons with disabilities in the private sector, and the business community is free to set its targets. The entire employment sector should be subjected to regulations compelling them to implement minimum employment targets of persons with disabilities. 9 Disability Rights Violations
  2. The low educational levels of persons with disabilities as a result of inequalities in the educational system. Both children and adults with disabilities do not have equal access to educational opportunities, and the government denies them their right to a quality and equitable education. Insufficient opportunities are available for adults with disabilities to improve their level of education. Discrimination against children with disabilities regarding access to education is rife and widespread. Children in special schools receive an inferior education, while the accessibility of mainstream schools for children with disabilities leaves much to be desired. Moreover, approximately 500 000 children with disabilities of school going age are out of school. The low levels of education amongst persons with disabilities, the lack of access to educational opportunities and the denial of the right to a quality and equal education impact severely on the general exercising of their human rights. Persons with disabilities’ prospects and living a life of dignity are nullified by these discriminatory practices. The denial of the fundamental right to an education is at the root of condemning thousands of persons with disabilities to a life of deprivations and poverty.
  3. Persons with disabilities are often denied their right to reasonable accommodation. They have the right to equitable measures to support their participation in society on an equal basis with non-disabled people. All sectors of society, including the workplace, public institutions, private entities have the responsibility to implement extraordinary measures to facilitate the equal participation and enjoyment of services, facilities, communication, information and execution of functions.
  4. The inaccessibility to persons with disabilities of their accommodation, buildings, services, information, programmes etc.
  5. The government’s non-provisioning of assistive devices to persons with disabilities. An assistive device is essential for living and accessing fundamental rights and freedoms. The country’s constitution guarantees the right to assistive devices as part of primary health care. Persons with disabilities, including children, are either not provided with assistive devices, or they have to wait for up to six years to be supplied with them. An assistive device like a wheelchair can be a matter of life and death, and there is ample evidence of people that have died because they were denied Having to go without a wheelchair can imply persons are confined to bed. Another example is the fact that deaf and severely hearing impaired people are denied hearing aids which means they are cut off from the world and denied their right to communication and access information. Various devices like crutches, white canes, walking frames, prosthesis and orthopaedic shoes are essential for mobility and the freedom of movement. By not supplying people with these devices, the government severely violates the fundamental human rights of persons with disabilities.
  6. Society’s general exclusion and marginalisation of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are extensively excluded from mainstream society due to structural and attitudinal barriers present in the community. In this way, society imposes a disability on persons with impairments.
  7. Persons with disabilities are often severely stigmatised. The stigma is often related to superstitious cultural belief systems. In several communities, disability is viewed as a curse. In extreme cases, children with disabilities are kept out of public sight and locked away in back rooms because of the level of stigma attached to them with their own families sometimes being ashamed of them.
  8. The pervasive prevalence of disablism in society. Prejudices towards and stereotypes about disability and persons with disabilities are prevalent in society which results in disability discrimination. Disablism, or disability discrimination, is quite possibly the cause of all the rights violations persons with disabilities have to endure and at the core of myriad deprivations, they have to suffer.
  9. Persons with disabilities are often denied access to justice in cases where crimes have been committed against them. They are more vulnerable to neglect, abuse and exploitation. Forms of violence include physical abuse, sexual molestation and rape. In many instances, they are denied access to justice due to disablism within the judicial system and the perception they are not credible witnesses. Victims often require professional intermediaries in court to support them in their testimonies and authorities are often reluctant to make an effort and incur costs to provide suitable and appropriate professional intermediaries.    barriers

Human Rights Watch World Report not Flattering about the Upholding of the Rights of South Africa’s Disabled Children

The Human Rights Watch World Report 2018 was released on Thursday, 18 January. It has the following to say about the rights violations of children with disabilities in South Africa. (Interestingly, most of the Disability Rights section of the report is about children with disabilities):

“Disability Rights

In October, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) highlighted estimates that half-a-million children with disabilities still do not have access to education, with 11,461 children with disabilities on waiting lists for school placements (up from over 5,500 in 2015). The SAHRC expressed concern that children with disabilities constantly experience barriers to the enjoyment of basic human rights, including the right to education, healthcare, and family care.

Despite the government’s international and domestic obligations, many children with disabilities do not have equal access to primary or secondary education, and face multiple forms of discrimination and barriers when they do access schools. 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 referrals system needlessly forces children to wait up to four years at care centers or at home for placement in a special school.

While education in public schools is free, children with disabilities who attend government special schools are required to pay school fees, and many who attend mainstream schools are asked to pay for their own class assistants as a condition for admission. In mainstream schools, many children with disabilities do not have access to the same curriculum as children without disabilities. In addition, many children with disabilities are exposed to high levels of violence and abuse by teachers and students.

In 2017, the government did not complete its efforts to publish accurate data on how many children and young people with disabilities are out of school across the country. It also failed to implement key aspects of the 2001 national policy, which calls for the provision of inclusive education for all children with disabilities, and is yet to adopt legislation that guarantees the right of children with disabilities to inclusive education.

However, the government continued to implement the Screening, Identification, Assessment, and Support (SIAS) policy designed to ensure that children with disabilities are provided full support when accessing education. The majority of the government’s limited budget for students with disabilities continued to be allocated to special schools rather than to inclusive education.”

You can read the South Africa section of the report here:


Major Deprivations Suffered by South Africa’s Children with Disabilities

The United Nations has referred to children with disabilities as the world’s most exposed and vulnerable minority group. This is true for South Africa as well.

Children with disabilities of South Africa are confronted by the following challenges:

1.       The Department of Health denying them their right to life supporting and essential assistive devices. Some children never receive essentiasl assistive devices like customised seating and mobility devices while other children are placed on waiting lists and have to wait for up to sic years for their devices. The provinces of the Free State and Northern Cape are  the worst in the non-provisioning of assistive devices. Under the country’s constitution, the government is obliged to provide assistive devices as part of basic health care services, but it fails dismally in its obligation

2.       The denial of their right to quality early childhood development facilities and programmes. Mainstream ECD facilities are inaccessible to children with disabilities and there are only a very limited number of facilities specifically for children with disabilities. Although many care centres exist, the quality of stimulation and educational input ate these centres leave mush to be desired. These day care centres offer mainly basic care

3.       Their general marginalisation and exclusion from mainstream society

4.       The Department of Basic Education denying them their right to a basic education. 500 000 children with disabilities of school-going age are out of school. The country’s policy on inclusive education, Special Education White Paper 6, was adopted by Cabinet in 2001. Sixteen years down the line and the government still fails to offer children with disabilities accessibility into mainstream schools and a quality and equal education.

5.       Society’s failure to adequately protect them from neglect, abuse and exploitation. More often than not the perpetrators of crimes against children with disabilities are known to the family and sometimes members of the family themselves.

6.       Their exclusion from play, recreational, social and cultural activities

7.       The Department of Justice denying them access to justice as victims of crime. The SA Police Services and prosecuting authorities seem to not view crimes against children with disabilities in the same serious light as crimes against non-disabled children. (Lives of lesser value?). Often disabled children are not regarded as credible witnesses resulting in perpetrators not being prosecuted. In other cases prosecuting authorities don’t go into enough effort to prepare the victim for the hearing and the important task of utilising the services of the right intermediaries to support the victim in her testimony, is neglected. It is not uncommon for cases of crimes against children with disabilities to be either thrown out of court or for the court to reach a non-guilty verdict

8.       Their alienation, exclusion and stigmatization because of cultural superstitions. In many communities disability is viewed as a curse. Disabled children in such cultural settings are therefore severely stigmatised and marginalised. The can even be an ambarassment for their own families and some families go as far as keeping their disabled children out of sight and are sometimes literally locked away in backrooms.

9.       The Department of Health denying them their right to adequate health care and rehabilitative services. Children in outlying rural areas are most affected by the lack of adequate health care and therapeutic and rehabilitative services. They have to rely on the services that are available at the local clinics. These health services are often very limited and essential therapeutic services like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy are only available sporadically or not at all.

10.   The denial of their right to be free from poverty

Mass Social Action Needed to End the Oppression and Discrimination against Disabled Children

The advocacy and lobbying efforts of disability organisations to combat the deep and widespread infringement of the rights of children with disabilities have limited impact. The system responsible for the rights violations of disabled children is very difficult to penetrate. At the moment appeals for change are shrugged off, ignored and swept under the carpet. Those in positions of power seem to lack the will and steadfastness to enforce positive change.

We need masses of people to rise up and shout out against the abuse, ill-treatmernt and rights violations against children with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities must organise and mobilise against the morally indefensible oppression of society’s most vulnerable and exposed group, children with disabilities. But to really be effective in transforming a dysfunctional system that has scant regard for the needs and rights of disabled children, the public in great masses need to rise up.

Social action, mobilising the people to stand up in great numbers and to shout out against the crminal oppression and exclusion of children with disabilities will fotrce down positive systemic changes.

The only way is for the people to rise. The power is in the hands of the people.

via Children with Disabilities are the World’s most Exposed and Vulnerable Group

SA Human Rights Commission’s Non-Committed Response to the Wide-Spread Denial of the Right of Disabled Children to an Education

In my previous post, I wrote about our organisation’s official letter to the SA Human Rights Commission to request intervention on the matter of the widespread exclusion of children with disabilities from a basic education. You can read that post here

I promised to update this blog with the reply to our appeal to the SAHRC.

At first, we received no reply whatsoever from the SAHRC which prompted me to write again and addressing the email directly to both the Commissioner for Children and the Commissioner for Disability. On November 11, I wrote as follows:

Dear Commissioners Malatji and Makwetla,

Below is an email I sent to your offices on 24 October.

I have received no response from you.

It is within this Council’s jurisdiction to guard over the rights of persons with disabilities and to be a voice for children with disabilities.

This is the second appeal to you to please reply to my letter of 24 October.

Your cooperation would be highly appreciated.

On the same day, I received a reply from both Commissioners in which they apologise for the delay in getting back to me and then pointing out that the information about the situation of a specific child who is out-of-school will be addressed by the provincial office of the SAHRC. That’s it. That was their full reply to a letter in which I urged them to intervene in the tragic country-wide reality of about a half a million disabled children of school going age being out-of-school. In my letter to them, my opening sentence refers to the case of a specific child “mirroring” the circumstances of hundreds of thousands of children all over the country. The Commissioners failed to reply to the key complaint outlined in our letter and that is the national phenomenon of children with disabilities not having access to a formal and equal education and as such being denied a most pressing and fundamental child and human right.

We immediately replied to their disappointing and unsatisfactory answer as follows:

Dear Commissioners Malatji and Makwetla,

Thank you sincerely for your reply.

As you suggest, we will continue to liaise with (the SAHRC provincial office) on the (individual) case.

However, my previous letter to you sketches a scenario of out-of-school children with disabilities nationally, and I was hoping for some indication from you as national commissioners on how the SAHRC intends to intervene in the crisis of the denial of children to their right to an education.  We have a situation here of widespread and persistent disability discrimination with a fundamental human right being violated, affecting approximately half a million children.

The SAHRC has the mandate and statutory responsibility to intervene in this situation of human rights abuses, and we have the right to know what steps you are taking to put an end to this scale of human and children’s rights violations.

We are anxiously awaiting your reply because we are at pains about what other authority to turn to if the SAHRC is not in a position to work towards resolving this issue.”

A reply is awaited.



The Continued and Stubborn Denial of the Right of Children with Disabilities to a Basic Education

A group of disabled children of school going age languishing in a poorly resourced care centre

The time for taking drastic steps to afford 500 000 South African children with disabilities their constitutional right to a basic education is long overdue and is the motivation for the following letter that I sent to the SA Human Rights Commission today. The letter was addressed to several Commissioners of the SAHRC and was sent as an official communication by my employer, the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD).

According to both the Human Rights Watch and the Department of Basic Education approximately 500 000 children with disabilities of school-going age are out-of-school and as such being denied their constitutional right to a basic education.

Despite laudable legislation and policies for children with disabilities to receive an inclusive education on an equal basis with all other children, the stark reality is evidence that our country, our government and relevant institutions are dismally failing in implementing legislative and policy provisions.

While we recognise the complexities of this issue, we cannot accept them as an excuse for the continued and stubborn violation of the rights of children with disabilities. Our observations are that there is extreme tardiness with the implementation of Special Education White Paper 6, that there is a lack of commitment at especially provincial,  district and school levels to provide for the educational inclusion of children with disabilities and that insufficient resources are being deployed to get children with disabilities into schools and to offer them the required support and adaptations to the learning environment they are entitled to. It is as if the gravity of the crime of denying our children their right to formal and equal education is not grasped by key government role players at all levels.

This disgraceful scenario clearly demands vigorous intervention by the SAHRC which should include litigation against the Minister of Basic Education and the provincial MECs for basic education.

This Council is ready to support any decisive action for the realisation of the immediately realisable right of children with disabilities to a basic education while emphasising that no child should be excluded on the basis of the nature or severity of their disability. No child is excluded from the ability to develop and learn.

We are anxiously waiting for your reply to this submission which we hope will contain a clear and fearless exposition of actions the SAHRC is and will be embarking on to execute its duty to ensure this unalienable right of children with disabilities to a basic education is upheld.

Best regards”

This blog will be updated with the reply from the SAHRC.

Disabled children of school-going age languishing in a care centre in a disadvantaged community run by an ill-equipped and poorly resourced community-based organisation. This is a typical scenario at care centres throughout South Africa. In most of these centres, only basic care is provided with very limited or no implementation of educational/stimulation/developmental programmes. Many of these centres receive a nominal subsidy from the Department of Social Development, but there is almost no evidence of any involvement by the Department of Basic Education which is of relevance considering these children are supposed to receive a quality formal education, equal to what their non-disabled peers receive.