This report was submitted to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as a contribution to a Day of General Discussion on the right to education for persons with disabilities to be held on 15 April 2015.
The reports highlights the systemic failure of the South African government to adequately provide for learners with disabilities. In particular, many learners with disabilities are not getting access to an education. These learners are not being screened and placed in appropriate schools, and in many instances are not in any schools. Even where learners are placed in schools the failure to accommodate their needs means that they do not have meaningful access to education because they are not provided with, for instance, accessible learning materials, appropriately qualified teachers and safe and accessible infrastructure. The ongoing failure to prioritise special needs education, and a lack of understanding of the needs of learners with disabilities, has resulted in the inadequate budgeting and provisioning for learners with disabilities. Finally, there is a lack of expertise amongst teachers and other staff at special needs schools, as well as officials within education departments responsible for developing and implementing policies to accommodate learners with special needs.
This 94-page report found that South Africa has failed to guarantee the right to education for many of the country’s children and young adults due to widespread discrimination against children with disabilities in enrolment decisions. Human Rights Watch research in five out of South Africa’s nine provinces showed that children with disabilities face discriminatory physical and attitudinal barriers, often beginning early in children’s lives when government officials classify them according to their disabilities.