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South Africa: Ngo urges government for disabled children inclusion

(AGI) - Johannesburg, Aug 19 - South Africa has made little progress in addressi...

South Africa: Ngo urges government for disabled children inclusion
 Sud Africa, bambini disabili

(AGI) - Johannesburg, Aug 19 - South Africa has made little progress in addressing the discrimination and exclusion faced by children with disabilities when accessing schools. According to Human Rights Watch and Section 27, a leading south african public interest law center, Pretoria's national government needs to take urgent action to demonstrate its commitment to inclusive education. In a new research Section 27 conducted demonstrating widespread and severe violations of the rights of children with disabilities, including the ongoing discrimination and the lack of concrete action to address areas of high exclusion in the Umkhanyakude District of KwaZulu-Natal. Based on interviews with 100 caregivers of children with disabilities and visits to 14 special and full-service schools, it described the situation there as a "dual racial and disability apartheid in South Africa's education system." "While senior government officials have made encouraging statements about inclusion of all children in education, the government has not translated its commitment into action," said Elin Martinez, children's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The government is failing thousands of children and young people with disabilities who are being denied their right to inclusive education." Nongovernmental organizations have repeatedly called for clarity on the numbers of children with disabilities who remain out of school, as well as for explicit budget lines for inclusive education in national and provincial budgets. Human Rights Watch has also said the government should stop segregating children with disabilities, and ensure that they are accommodated and guaranteed quality education in mainstream schools. The government has not yet presented accurate data to show how many children with disabilities are out of school and continues to rely on estimates and outdated data. In November 2015, the minister of basic education, Angelina Motshekga, announced that the Department of Basic Education would take major steps to strengthen the implementation of its inclusive education policy. In March 2016, President Jacob Zuma announced his commitment that "all government institutions must ring fence a budget for participation by and empowerment of young persons with disabilities, and must report annually on the impact of these programmes." Yet, the government's 2016-2017 budget does not have a dedicated budget line for inclusive education, and does not stipulate financial support for full-service schools, which would be adapted or built to accommodate children with disabilities and provide specialized services and attention in a mainstream environment. The Department of Basic Education stated that it has budgeted R6.3 billion (US$450 million) for special schools in 2016, and allocated funds for workbooks for visually impaired learners.Research conducted from 2013 to 2015 by Section 27 in Umkhanyakude District, in northeast KwaZulu-Natal, found that schools are not provided with sufficient and consistent funding to accommodate students with disabilities. Both special and full-service schools in the district report serious problems with infrastructure and access to basic services. While some full-service schools receive as much as R273,000 (US$20,000) for this purpose, one school reported receiving as little as R22,000 (US$1,600) from the province's Department of Education as recently as 2014/15. Full service schools report that they have too few classrooms, with multi-grade classrooms shared by as many as 89 children. (AGI) .