SA: New law to benefit learners with disabilities

basic educationBy –

Pretoria – Learners with disabilities will soon be able start school at an early age and access their local neighbourhood schools.

The Department of Basic Education says the South African Schools Act and the Admissions Policy, which is currently being reviewed, will be brought in line with the newly promulgated Policy on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support of learners with disabilities.

“One of the critical areas that will be included in the review is the admission age of learners with disabilities to make better provision for early intervention,” the department said on Tuesday.

The Policy on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support was promulgated in December 2014 for implementation with effect in 2015.

The introduction of the policy will also ensure a new dispensation in which children with disabilities will have expanded opportunities to access their local neighbourhood schools and receive support in inclusive settings from an early age onwards.

The department said most provinces have been setting up structures in selected schools and districts for the implementation of the policy since 2008.

“The policy will now be incrementally rolled out nationally across all districts and schools, starting with the training of a National Training Team in July 2015. 2019 has been set as the target date for universal application,” the department said.

Highlighting some of the strides made towards addressing the plight of disabled learners, the department said it is currently finalising the development of National Norms and Standards for the Distribution of Resources, including personnel, non-personnel non capital and infrastructure resources within an Inclusive Education System.

This will holistically address the support needs of learners with special education needs and disabilities.

“This policy has been consulted with various stakeholders and is currently being taken through the department’s internal approval processes where after, if approved, it will be published for public comment.”

According to the Annual Special School Surveys of 2013 and 2014, the number of learners with disabilities enrolled in 2013 was 116 888 with 116 740 enrolled in 2014. In ordinary schools, the enrolment was 80 702 in 2013 and 4 222 in 2014.

Statistics for enrolment of learners with disabilities in ordinary schools in 2014 and 2015 are not yet available.

The provincial education departments are planning to build 18 new special schools over the next four years.

Several actions have been introduced by the department to endure that significant number of vulnerable learners including learners with disabilities, who are out of school have access to quality education.

The department has established a protocol with the Social Development Department and the South African Social Security Agency to ensure that all children aged 5 to 18 years, who have Identification Numbers and who receive grants, are in school.

“To date this is the most effective method of identifying out-of-school children and youth of compulsory school going age,” the department said.