No disability policy - Nzimande

2014-01-16 23:03
Blade Nzimande (File, Beeld)

Blade Nzimande (File, Beeld)

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Johannesburg - There is no national policy on disability to guide education and training institutions in the post-school domain, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said on Thursday.

"The management of disability in post-school education remains fragmented and separate to that of existing transformation and diversity programmes at the institutional level. Individual institutions determine unique ways in which to address disability, and resourcing is allocated within each institution according to their programme."

Nzimande was speaking in Pretoria at the launch of the white paper on post-school education and training.

He said levels of commitment toward people with disability varied considerably between institutions, as did the resources allocated to addressing disability issues.

"Technical and Vocational Education and Training [TVET] colleges [formerly FET colleges] in particular lack the capacity, or even the policies, to cater for students and staff with disabilities."

Nzimande said data from 22 of the 23 public universities showed that 5807 students with disabilities were enrolled in higher education institutions in 2011, accounting for only one percent of the total enrolment.

"The low numbers of people with disabilities in universities and colleges is despite the fact that bursary funding for learners with disabilities is available."

A bursary scheme was introduced in 2008 to complement department of labour funding provided through the national skills fund (NSF).

"The Department of Higher Education and Training's disability funding was, however, under-utilised in 2010 and 2011, at levels of only 47% and 55% respectively of available funding. "

Nzimande said the low uptake of bursaries was a matter of serious concern, given the continued inequities in access.

Universal access

"It is most likely related to the fact that many learners with disabilities do not qualify for university education, but research is required to fully understand this problem."

The department made available an amount of R130m, with universities providing an additional R52m, towards ensuring universal physical access to university infrastructure and facilities.

"Allocation to each university was based on whether addressing disability was a priority and whether capacity existed. In TVET colleges, there is still no ring-fenced funding to improve the accessibility of buildings, although the norms and standards for funding these colleges do provide for additional funding for learners with special needs."

Greater attention would be given to ensuring that the colleges improve their capacity to accommodate and serve students with disabilities.

"A strategic policy framework is necessary to guide the improvement of access to and success in post-school education and training [including in private institutions] for people with disabilities."

He said the framework would create an enabling and empowering environment across the system.

"The framework will set norms and standards for the integration of students and staff with disabilities in all aspects of university or college life, including academic life, culture, sport and accommodation.

"Through this white paper policy framework, we will seek to integrate recognition of prior learning into the post-school education and training system."

Such recognition must not be ad hoc, but must form an integral part of the whole system, said Nzimande.

- SAPA

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