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