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«Human Rights Watch defends the rights of people worldwide. We scrupulously investigate abuses, expose the facts widely, and pressure those with power ...»

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One day my child had something on this face. It was as if he had been hit with something from the tree. I went to the principal and showed him. He said it wasn’t the teacher. The teacher assistant then acknowledged that she had hit him. I said I hoped it was the last time.215 One father near Kwa-Ngwanase told Human Rights Watch that his son Phelele sometimes comes back with bruises from school. The father spoke with the teacher, who promised to do something to stop this, but his son continues to be beaten up by Legal Studies et al., “Sexual Violence by Educators in South African Schools: Gaps in Accountability,” May 2014, http://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=avon_clarke (accessed August 5, 2015).

213 Human Rights Watch interview with staff member at Childline Gauteng, Johannesburg, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Childline Limpopo team, Polokwane, Limpopo, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Henry Hendricks, general secretary, National Professional Teachers Organization of South Africa, Pretoria, January 2015; Afrika Tikkun and Centre for Applied Legal Studies, “Submission to Portfolio Committee and Select Committee on Women, Children and People With disabilities, July 21, 2012.

214 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of a 12-year-old child with autism who wished to remain anonymous, Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with parents with children with disabilities, Johannesburg, October 2014.

215 Human Rights Watch interview with father of 8-year-old boy with autism, Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with parents with children with disabilities, Johannesburg, October 2014.

–  –  –

Similarly, instances of neglect make parents worry about general care in their children’s special schools. In the case of Tiego, a 14-year-old boy with autism in Polokwane, his

mother Lala, told Human Rights Watch:

He was initially in the boarding school for three years. I went to the school one night, without [giving] notice. When I got there, it was winter time, he didn’t have clothes on. He didn’t have his pajamas on. He seemed to have a cold. He was making noises, and tittering as if ill. But I had been given a list of things to buy for him! [Then] [I found] his clothes were up in his suitcase. The thought that my son was being treated that way was not acceptable. I removed him from the boarding school and put him into the day facility.218 Maria Mashimbaye, the mother of an 11-year-old boy with spina bifida who requires assistance with toilet needs, told Human Rights Watch her son has had infections because they do not change his nappies regularly.219 Similarly, Makhosi, 23, told Human Rights Watch that her helper at her boarding special school in Durban, whom she depended on to take her everywhere, often would ignore her if she wanted to go to the toilet or when she required help with other basic needs: “If I wanted to go to the toilet, the helper would ignore me if I needed anything. It was always the same person assigned to help me. I spoke to the principal but he did not take action.”220 216 Human Rights Watch interview with the parents of Phelele, a 9-year-old boy with a speech disability, Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014.

217 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of a 12-year-old with an intellectual disability, Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014.

218 Human Rights Watch interview with Lala, the mother of a 14-year-old boy with autism, Polokwane, Limpopo, October 2014.

219 Human Rights Watch interview with Maria Mashimbaye, the mother of a 11-year-old with spina bifida, Johannesburg, October 2014.

220 Human Rights Watch interview with Makhosi Ntombikayise, a 23-year-old woman with severe physical disabilities, KwaNgwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014.

–  –  –

Quality of education? He just goes there and plays, cleans, washes dishes.

He can’t even write his name.

—Mother of an 11-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, Johannesburg, October 2014221 I’m a pretty average student… I feel that a student that does not excel in sport at school or have great academic skills is made to feel as if they’re at the school to make up the numbers. I don’t believe there is much of a feeling of appreciation or acceptance of people who don’t add value in terms of “As” or sporting achievements.

—Extract from Michaela’s open letter to her school, July 24, 2011222 Poor quality education affects hundreds of thousands of students across South Africa.223 According to the UN special rapporteur on the right to education, an international expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, quality education means “a minimum level of student acquisition of knowledge, values, skills and competencies … adequate school infrastructure, facilities and environment … a well-qualified teaching force … and a school that is open to the participation of all, particularly students, their parents and the community.”224 The national debate on the state of quality in education has long identified a need to build adequate school infrastructure and invest in teaching resources to improve quality education in economically deprived areas of the country.225 Learning environments across 221 Human Rights Watch interview with mother of an 11-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, Johannesburg, October 2014.





222 Michaela Mycroft, “This is Me,” http://www.chaelz-thisisme.blogspot.co.uk/ (accessed July 8, 2015).

223 Nicholas Spaull, “South Africa’s Education Crisis: The quality of education in South Africa 1994-2011”, Report Commissioned by the Centre for Development and Enterprise, October 2013; News 24, “SA has worst maths, science education in world,” June 02, 2014, http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/SA-has-worst-maths-science-education-inworld-20140602 (accessed June 13, 2015); BBC Online, “South Africa anger at ‘worst maths and science’ ranking,” June 3, 2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-27683189 (accessed June 13, 2015).

224 UN Human Rights Council, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh: Normative action for quality education,” 2 May 2012, A/HRC/20/21, p. 7, para. 21. See also Right to Education Project, “Quality Education,” http://www.right-to-education.org/issue-page/education-quality (accessed April 7, 2015).

225 Stephen Taylor et al., “Low quality education as a poverty trap in South Africa,” Research paper, University of Stellenbosch; Equal Education, “School Infrastructure: Overview and History,” http://www.equaleducation.org.za/page/school-infrastructure (accessed April 12, 2015).

–  –  –

In addition to these conditions, children with disabilities are affected by a number of factors, including a dearth of teaching knowledge, training, skills; lack of motivation; and an absence of individualized planning and learning.

Human Rights Watch was alerted to the lack of attention to the quality of teaching oriented at children with disabilities, the absence of training and skills to teach children with disabilities, and an entrenched attitude, within schools and by teachers, that children with disabilities cannot learn to the same standard as students without disabilities.229 Ongoing negative practices in mainstream schools need to be urgently addressed by school officials to ensure these schools can accommodate children with disabilities successfully.

Lack of Teacher Knowledge, Training, Skills Teachers are key stakeholders in any inclusive education system, but many do not have basic knowledge or understanding of disabilities or how to teach children with diverse abilities. A number of NGOs providing teacher training in public schools told Human Rights Watch that teachers are not sufficiently qualified and equipped to teach children with disabilities, particularly in mainstream and full-service schools.230 226 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Faranaaz Veriava, Section 27, September 2014; Centre for Applied Legal Studies et al., “Sexual Violence by Educators in South African Schools: Gaps in Accountability,” May 2014; Nareadi Phasha and Doris Nyokangi, “School-Based Sexual Violence Among Female Learners with Mild Intellectual Disability in South Africa,” Violence Against Women, March 2012, 18: pp. 309 -321, accessed August 5, 2015, doi: 10.1177/1077801212444578.

227 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Brad Brockman, secretary general, Equal Education, September 2014;

Zintle Swana, “South Africa: Primary School Kids Sent Home Because of Lack of Toilets and Sewage Smell,” All Africa, January 29, 2015, http://allafrica.com/stories/201501291311.html (accessed April 12, 2015); Mtshana Mvlisi, “School toilets in shocking state,” Health-E News, The South African Health News Service, May 2, 2013 http://www.healthe.org.za/2013/05/02/school-toilets-in-shocking-state/(accessed April 12, 2015).

228 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Nikki Stein, education advocate, Section 27, September 2014; Mail & Guardian, “Limpopo textbooks,” undated, http://mg.co.za/tag/limpopo-textbooks (accessed April 12, 2015).

229 Human Rights Watch interview with Professor Nareadi Pasha, University of South Africa, Pretoria, November 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Robyn Beere, director, Inclusive Education South Africa, Cape Town, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Shona Mcdonald, chief executive officer, Shonaquip/Uhambo Foundation, Cape Town, October 2014;

Human Rights Watch interview with Zelda Mycroft, chief executive officer, Chaeli Cottage, Cape Town, October 2014.

230Human Rights Watch interview with Naomi Crous, specialist, Children’s DisABILITY Training Centre, Johannesburg, October 2014;

Human Rights Watch interview with Ancella Ramjas, director, Down Syndrome South Africa, Pretoria, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interviews with various representatives of Autism SA in Gauteng, Limpopo and Northern Cape, October and November 2014.

“COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 54 Ruth Blood, a former teacher and now an Autism South Africa representative in Kimberley, told Human Rights Watch that “It is useless trying to fit children who need [high levels of] support in mainstream schools when teachers who are supposed to take care of them … don’t know how to do it.”231 According to Henry Hendricks, general secretary of the National Professional’s Teachers Organization of South Africa, the country’s second largest teachers’ union whose members teach in many special schools, “Teacher training is the single most important resource, but teachers [for learners with disabilities] don’t get the resources or the training.”232 The shortage of trained teachers is also accompanied by the lack of support staff to provide services to students with disabilities: “There aren’t enough support staff such as occupational therapists, speech therapists… they are not there,” said Hendricks.233 The UN special rapporteur on education states that “It should be obligatory for State authorities to deploy only qualified and trained teachers in schools.”234 The CRPD requires governments to take “appropriate measures to employ teachers, including teachers with disabilities, who are qualified in sign language and/or Braille, and to train professionals and staff who work at all levels of education.”235 Human Rights Watch documented various ways in which schools are not providing the basic foundations of quality for children with disabilities, affecting the government’s compliance with the obligation to guarantee quality education in schools.

Parents reported that their children would sit in class in mainstream schools, and in some cases, full-service schools, but they felt that teachers did not encourage or facilitate their real inclusion in class exercises or pay enough attention to ensure their children followed what was happening in class.

231 Human Rights Watch interview with Ruth Blood, Autism South Africa Northern Cape, Kimberley, Northern Cape, November 2014.

232 Human Rights Watch interview with Henry Hendricks, general secretary, National Professional Teachers Organization of South Africa, Pretoria, January 2015.

233 Ibid.

234 Human Rights Council, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh: Normative action for quality education,” 2 May 2012, A/HRC/20/21, p. 14, para. 63.

235 CRPD, art. 24(4).

55 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH | AUGUST 2015 Many children interviewed by Human Rights Watch could not read or write despite being in school for many years.236 A mother told Human Rights Watch “The teacher knows that he can’t read … but doesn’t [do] anything.”237 Lala, the mother of a 14-year-old boy with autism who goes to a special school in Polokwane, told Human Rights Watch that “they don’t teach them much and they don’t do much at school, so when he’s out he doesn’t miss out. I take him there so that he gets to see the school. The principal isn’t supporting anything autism related.”238 Parents and NGOs expressed significant concern that schools and teachers had low expectations of children with disabilities and often assumed they were not going to learn, resulting in irregularities in what the children did on a daily basis.239 Zelda Mycroft, the mother of 21-year-old Children’s Peace Prize winner Michaela Mycroft, who has cerebral palsy and a degenerative neuropathy240 and went to mainstream and special schools, told Human Rights Watch that what struck her most is that “special schools pandered towards [her] disabilities. The mainstream school challenged her ability. What she did [there] wasn’t framed by her impairment.”241 Human Rights Watch heard various examples where children with disabilities attended school but teachers did not engage them in classroom activities.242 Phelele, a 9-year-old boy who cannot speak and attends a full-service school, only sat in class with no engagement in daily classwork. According to his parents, he only draws throughout the day, with no apparent connection to the day’s lessons, while the teacher focuses on getting on with the general curriculum.243 236 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of a 15-year-old boy with intellectual disabilities, village near KwaNgwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Elisabeth, assistant social worker, Zweletemba, Worcester, Western Cape, November 2014.



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