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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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Uncertain Future Human Rights Watch asked a number of adolescents and young adults with disabilities who were out of school about their future prospects. Both Sibusiso, a 19-year-old man in Kwa-Ngwanase who did not attend school, and Reet, a 21-year-old man in Kimberley who studied at a special school for people with intellectual disabilities, wanted to work with cars or become mechanics.303 Similarly, an 18-year-old man in Orange Farm township told Human Rights Watch that he wanted to be trained for a job, “and get a job like those people who have finished their matric.”304 When Human Rights Watch met them, they all remained at home, without work. Their parents strongly believed that their children had not gained the skills needed to seek a job or become independent before dropping out or finishing basic education.

Reet’s mother told Human Rights Watch:

My child—he can’t do anything—he just wants to play with cars. It seems he didn’t learn much…. He can’t read and he can’t write, he can’t even write his name but he dropped out of the school…. My child is just roaming around the location [township]. I want a place where they can identify his talent.305 Margaret Masinga, a representative of a local organization for persons with disabilities in Kwa-Ngwanase, told Human Rights Watch: “The government needs to do something to ensure everyone in the community knows we want to have a future just like everyone else.”306 302 Ibid.

303 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of a 19-year-old man with an intellectual disability, Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with mother of a 21-year-old man with an intellectual disability, Kimberley, Northern Cape, November 2014.

304 Human Rights Watch interview with an 18-year-old man deemed a “slow learner,” Orange Farm, Johannesburg, October 2014.

305 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of a 21-year-old man with an intellectual disability, Kimberley, Northern Cape, November 2014.

306 Human Rights Watch interview with Margaret Masinga and Kululiwe, Siphilisa Isizwe DPO, Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014.

“COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 68 Yet, the lack of inclusion and attention to needs and support throughout the earlier stages of education means that by the time children with disabilities have completed the compulsory years of education, they have “no self-esteem at that stage…. no initiative or energy.”307 Professor Lorna Jacklin, a doctor who regularly treats children with disabilities in Johannesburg, said, “Children can see their years are leading up to nothing.”308 Basie Jahnig, Boitumelo Special School’s principal, told Human Rights Watch that, “Sometimes we teach them skills, at a certain time we say goodbye to them and then they go home and sit there.”309 Sandra Klooper, director of Autism South Africa, also warned: “As the teenage years strike, depression kicks in. Children [with autism] withdraw into themselves. There are five mothers all with young male adults in their twenties. Their sons have no motivation and sit at home and watch TV. Further education opportunities are not geared at higher functioning autistic children.310 Lack of Access to Basic Adult Education The CRPD states that governments “shall ensure that persons with disabilities are able to access general tertiary education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning without discrimination.”311 Human Rights Watch interviewed two adolescents and five young adults with disabilities who had not finished compulsory education and had no access to adult basic education programs that would allow them to complete their education, in line with the government’s commitments to provide universal access to education for adults, particularly “youth with special needs and disadvantaged learners with special learners needs.”312 307 Human Rights Watch interview with Professor Lorna Jacklin MD, head of Children’s Clinic, CM Johannesburg Hospital, Johannesburg, October 2014.

308 Ibid.

309 Human Rights Watch interview with Basie Jahnig, principal, Boitumelo special school, Kimberley, Northern Cape, November 2014.

310 Human Rights Watch interview with Sandra Klooper, director, Autism South Africa, Johannesburg, October 2014.

311 CRPD, art. 24 (5).

312Department of Basic Education, “Policy Document on Adult Basic Education and Training,” undated, http://www.education.gov.za/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=QO4sU11vOCk%3D& (accessed April 10, 2015).

69 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH | AUGUST 2015 Sandile Ndlazi, 24, has cerebral palsy and had never attended school. He depends on his mother to teach him basic syllables with basic learning tools provided at Manguzi Hospital.

In his case, one special school did not accept him because he was considered too old to enter the school aged 12. His mother did not contact other schools because “the therapists [at the hospital] told me I had to teach him at home.” Sandile’s mother said that she believed he would have been able to catch up on his education had he entered school at the appropriate time. “Now he’s too old and can’t catch up easily,” she said.313 Thabo Phiri, manager of Reakgona Adult Centre, told Human Rights Watch that most young adults referred to the center should not be in skills centers in the first place.314 The system gives up on them quickly, families do the same.… Once [children] are in an institution like this, there’s labeling … people assume they’re dumb and stupid.315 He added that he was “convinced that many of [the] students would have been able to do much more if provided with real support and interventions at the right time. Sometimes I tell parents, ‘Honestly speaking, your child doesn’t belong here.’”316 According to both Phiri and Brian Tigere, a social worker at a center for people with intellectual disabilities in Polokwane, many young adults with intellectual disabilities with whom they work have progressed through the education system without gaining basic skills or completing basic education and would benefit from learning basic numeracy and literacy skills appropriate to their development and needs.317 In their experience, people with intellectual disabilities fall into a systemic gap because basic education components are not taught in stimulation or skills centers, managed by the Department of Social Development.318 313 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of Sandile, a 24-year-old man with cerebral palsy, Lulwane, KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014.





314 Human Rights Watch interview with Thabo Phiri, manager, Reakgona Adult Centre for people with intellectual disabilities, Seshego, Limpopo, October 2014.

315 Ibid.

316 Ibid.

317 Ibid.

318 Ibid.; Human Rights Watch interview with Brian Tigere, social worker, APD Limpopo, Polokwane, Limpopo, October 2014.

“COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 70 Guided by its obligations in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the government should ensure that “fundamental education shall be encouraged or intensified as far as possible for those persons who have not received or completed the whole period of their primary education.”319 Limited Employment Options Two special schools visited by Human Rights Watch employ their own graduates to create work opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities. Albertina Sisulu’s principal employs some of the schools’ graduates to “show [communities] examples that they’re employable.”320 At Boitumelo special school, a number of female students become class assistants and male students help in building and school maintenance.321 Overall, despite small efforts by school principals, special schools for children visited by Human Rights Watch do not have clear progression to vocational training or work placements. At Albertina Sisulu, most students over 18 are referred to protective workshops, practical skills centers set up for people with intellectual disabilities.322 Students at Prinshof’s separate section for children with multiple and intellectual disabilities can only go to grade 7; students who are blind or have low vision enrolled in the “mainstream” section of this special school finish at grade 12.323 The school team will often interview parents of students with intellectual disabilities and tell them they must make provision for them, opting to send them to either care centers or protective or sheltered workshops, managed by the Department of Social Development.324 Many adolescents and young adults with disabilities may stay at home, without practical skills or a sense of empowerment—despite attending school for years.325 Cape Mental 319 ICESCR, art. 13(2)(d).

320 Human Rights Watch interview with Bernard Lushozi, principal, Albertina Sisulu Resource Centre, Soweto, Johannesburg, October 2014.

321 Human Rights Watch interview with Basie Jahnig, principal, Boitumelo Special School, Kimberley, November 2014.

322 Human Rights Watch interview with Bernard Lushozi, principal, Albertina Sisulu Resource Centre, Soweto, Johannesburg, October 2014.

323 Human Rights Watch interview with Karin Swarz, principal, Prinshof School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Pretoria, November 2014.

324 Ibid.

325 Human Rights Watch interview with director, Vukuhambe Day Care Centre, Zwelethemba, Worcester, Western Cape, November 2014.

71 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH | AUGUST 2015 Health, an organization focused on supporting and enabling services for adults with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities in the Western Cape, states: “Their exit opportunities post-LSEN [Learner with Special Education Needs] school consist therefore of mainly of two options: stay at home or attend a protective workshop for life.”326 Protective workshops are described as “safe, disability-friendly environments providing opportunities for people with disabilities from the local community to develop and improve their skills and to earn an income through the products they make to supplement their disability grants.”327 Such workshops are often deemed incompatible with the CRPD, due to their potential excluding and limiting effect on the right to work of people with intellectual disabilities328 and are considered “liable of not promoting full inclusion in society,”329 denying people with disabilities the “right to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work.”330 The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has, on several occasions, recommended “the phasing out or elimination of sheltered workshops and the promotion of employment of people with disabilities in the open labour market.”331 Sandra Klooper, Autism South Africa’s director, told Human Rights Watch that even in sheltered employment, “People with moderate support needs are not really accommodated in shops … some have behaviors that scare everybody … some of them are at the back of shops and supermarkets in the packing area.” Klooper believes this requires a change in attitudes to ensure people with disabilities are accommodated in mainstream job markets.332

326 Cape Mental Health, “UN CRPD Submission: Inclusive Education,” undated,

http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CRPD/DGD/2015/CapeMentalHealth.doc (June 13, 2015).

327 Disability Workshop Development Enterprise, “What is a Protective Workshop?,” undated, http://www.dwde.co.za/whatis-a-protective-workshop/ (accessed June 13, 2015).

328 Sabrina Ferraina, “Analysis of the Legal Meaning of Article 27 of the UN CRPD: Key Challenges for Adapted Work Settings,” Cornell University ILR School, http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1559&context=gladnetcollect (accessed August 5, 2015) March 14, 2002, p. 5.

329 Ibid., p. 18.

330 Ibid., pp. 25-26; CRPD, art. 27.

331 International Disability Alliance et al, “IDA submission on draft General Comment on Article 7, ICESCR: The right to just and favourable conditions of work of persons with disabilities,” May 2015, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CESCR/Discussions/2015/IDA.docx (accessed June 13, 2015), p. 3.

332 Human Rights Watch interview with Sandra Klooper, director, Autism South Africa, Johannesburg, October 2014.

“COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 72 While some adolescents and young adults with disabilities may be employed at the community level,333 their entry into the open employment market is more challenging.

Hanlie Swanepoel, an education therapist, told Human Rights Watch that “skills training is not that close to home…. Traineeships need to take longer because it takes longer for [students with intellectual disabilities] to learn.”334 A representative of a national recruiting company focused on supporting companies to recruit persons with disabilities, who spoke confidentially with Human Rights Watch, said the level of education that most individuals with disabilities receive in rural areas and townships falls short of what South African corporations want. Many prospective candidates with disabilities lack an acceptable level of English literacy, or proficiency in subjects such as mathematics, science, and technology that are needed to work in certain industries.

Applicants who are blind or have low vision, she noted, often lack mathematics skills.335 Human Rights Watch found job advertisements for persons with disabilities that often required a minimum level of matric, and, in some cases, candidates needed to prove they had reached grade 12 and studied mathematics.336 The absence of accreditation or school diplomas means many adolescents and young adults with disabilities who attend special schools do not receive an official document to show they have finished compulsory education at a special school.337 333 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of a 19-year-old man with an intellectual disability, Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Mika, a 27–year-old man with an intellectual disability, Disabled Children’s Action Group, Cape Town, October 2014.

334 Human Rights Watch interview with Hanlie Swanepoel, education therapist, Pretoria, November 2014.

335 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with the representative of a recruiting company in Western Cape, names withheld upon request, March 2015.



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