An education for all

2018-10-31 06:00

THERE is growing concern about the high number of disabled children that are not part of the South African education system.

Children with disabilities face many hurdles when trying to access the schooling system in SA, this according to recent studies conducted by Autism South Africa.

The estimated figure of children with disabilities that are currently not part of the system is close to 500 000.

Speaking of some of the challenges they face, Director of Autism South Africa Sandy Usswald said: “These include stigma in our communities, physical barriers such as no wheelchair access, or toilets at schools, and attitudinal barriers.

“There is a misperception that children with disabilities are more difficult to teach or include in the classroom, or that they will bring down the learning environment for other children, when in fact studies have proven that the learning experience actually improves in an inclusive classroom, both for the children with and without disabilities.”

Some of the other barriers include knowledge and skills barriers among the teachers that are ill-equipped in appropriate teaching methodologies to facilitate a meaningful learning environment for all, and practice barriers such as children with disabilities who are unable to use the toilet independently and who are excluded from the mainstream and even special school system.

Usswald said: “These are just a few of the challenges that our children face, which are easily overcome with a change in attitude and an inclusive education mindset.

“We are currently on a country-wide campaign to collect the names and details of these children so that we can approach the Department of Education to demand that these children are placed into beneficial learning environments to suit their needs.

“Unfortunately, teacher training does not cover inclusive education or strategies to provide access to the curriculum for children with disabilities.

“We strongly encourage teachers to reach out to relevant and accredited training organisations who work within the disability sector to support them to increase their knowledge and skills and provide on-site classroom support for them.

“I have found that teachers with passion and a positive attitude towards children with disabilities really make the difference.

“Resources come second to a passion and belief that our children are able to succeed with the support that they as individuals require.”

Usswald added that they have been inundated with complaints from parents of children with disabilities who are currently out of school. These parents reported on difficulties they faced when trying to enrol their children into mainstream or special needs schools.

“We are now working on collecting information to present to the national Department of Education in order to demand that they place children with disabilities into a school suited to their needs.

“In order to do this, we need parents to fill out a form telling us about their children and how long the child has been out of school. We can provide parents with the form if they email us,” she said.

Autism SA said the intention is to get the Department of Education to take their demands seriously when they show the department how many children with disabilities are out of school.

Parents who wish to participate in the campaign can call Autism SA at 011 484 9909 or visit or e-mail


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