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69 Department of Basic Education, “Admissions Policy for Ordinary Public Schools,” General Notice No. 2432 of 1998, para. 22.
70 The 2013 regulations refer to “universal design” to “address the diversity of learners with functional limitations.”Department of Basic Education, “Regulations Relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure,” November 29, 2013, http://www.education.gov.za/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=fJ%2BPEDF6AmU%3D&tabid=188&mid=1756.
71 Human Rights Watch interview with Lisa Draga, attorney, Equal Education Law Centre, Cape Town, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Legal and Policy team, Section 27, Johannesburg, October 2014.
72 Human Rights Watch interview with Lindiwe Mokate, basic education and children’s rights commissioner, and Advocate Bokankatla Joseph Malatji, disability rights commissioner, South African Human Rights Commission, Johannesburg, January 2015; Human Rights Watch interview with Legal and Policy team, Section 27, Johannesburg, October 2014.
When my daughter turned six, I cried for her. Puseletso is the only child who hasn’t been to school…. Her brothers go to school nearby. But most schools for my daughter are very far. I don’t want my child to go to a school far from me.
—Dimakatso, mother of an 8-year-old girl with an intellectual disability, Johannesburg, October 2014 Among the factors that impede the ability of children with disabilities to access education are prohibitive costs associated, in particular, with school fees, transport, and special assistants.
Fees The only one school that can offer a placement [for my son] is the one I can’t pay for.
—Reneilwe, mother of a 10-year-old boy with autism, Limpopo, October 2014 Primary education is not automatically free in South Africa.
In 2000, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which oversees the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which South Africa acceded in 1995, expressed concern that South Africa did not guarantee free primary education, and recommended that the government “take effective measures to ensure that primary education is available free to all.”73 In addition to breaching the government’s international obligation to guarantee primary education free of charge for all children, the current fee-based system particularly discriminates against children with disabilities who attend public special schools. This results in many children with disabilities paying school fees 74 that many 73 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child,” South Africa, UN Doc. CRC/C15/Add.122 (2000), para. 34.
74 “School fees” are defined as “any form of contribution of a monetary nature made or paid by a person or body in relation to the attendance or participation by a learner in any programme of a public school,” South African Schools Act, Act No.
24 of 2005: Education Laws Amendment Act, 2005, http://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/a24-05_0.pdf, ch. 1 and s. 1(b).
The Schools Act mandates that the state fund public schools on an equitable basis.76 The government in turn requires that the governing bodies of public schools, made up of teachers, parents, and other community representatives, adopt a resolution for a school to charge fees, and supplement a school’s funding “by charging school fees and doing other reasonable forms of fund-raising.”77 Public schools may be classified as “no-fee” schools, a status granted to public schools by provincial governments, which means that those schools should not charge fees. Today, around 80 percent of schools benefit from a “no-fee” policy across the country,78 and approximately 60 percent of the current school population accesses “no-fee” schools.79 Human Rights Watch found that no special schools are currently listed in any “no-fee” schools list produced by the government.80 The “no-fee” designation is based on the “economic level of the community around the school,” and on a quintile system from poorest to richest, whereby the lowest three quintiles do not pay fees in designated public schools.81 75 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy, Orange Farm, Johannesburg, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Maria Mashimbaye, the mother of an 11-year-old boy with spina bifida, Orange Farm, Johannesburg, October 2014.
76 South African Schools Act, s. 34.
77 Department of Basic Education, “School Fees and Exemption – No Fee Schools”, undated, http://www.education.gov.za/Parents/NoFeeSchools/tabid/408/Default.aspx (accessed March 29, 2015).
78 South African Human Rights Commission, “Charter of Children’s Basic Education Rights” (2012), p. 40.
79 Nontobeko Mtshali, “A little more money for no-fee schools”, IOL news, January 20, 2015, http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/gauteng/a-little-more-money-for-no-fee-schools-1.1806803#.VRwRevnF98E (accessed March 31, 2015).
80 Human Rights Watch reviewed “No Fee Schools” lists in December 2014. None of the special schools visited or mentioned in Human Rights Watch interviews appear in the lists. Human Rights Watch extended this search to find ‘special schools;’ none were listed. Department of Basic Education, “School Fees and Exemption – No Fee Schools”, undated, http://www.education.gov.za/Parents/NoFeeSchools/tabid/408/Default.aspx (accessed March 29, 2015).
81 Department of Education, “National Norms and Standards for School Funding,” General Notice 2363, October 12, 1998, http://www.education.gov.za/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=ZYYtOiXHTeE%3D&tabid=188&mid=498 (accessed August 5, 2015);
Department of Basic Education, “Amended National Norms and Standards for School Funding,” January 16, 2015, http://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/38397_gon17.pdf (accessed August 5, 2015).
“COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 24 Although a significantly high number of students in special schools come from townships and predominantly poor areas of towns,82 many public special schools in urban areas are located in wealthier suburbs previously inaccessible to the majority of children under apartheid.83 The income level of surrounding communities and locations means many special schools fail the “needs” or “poverty” test used to assess a school’s access to recurrent public funding or to qualify as a “no-fee” school.84 School fees in special schools visited by Human Rights Watch ranged from R350-R750 (US$32-$68) per each of the year’s four terms. Some parents calculated paying as much as R5,000 ($454) per year in school fees alone. One parent in Cape Town described fees of R380 ($35) per month as “expensive,” while another in Zwelethemba township, Worcester, said fees of R200 ($18) per month were “difficult to pay.”85 Parents with children who are referred to special schools which are far away from their families also pay for boarding or housing fees and transport for their children to travel long distances to school.86 The father of an 8-year-old boy with autism in Johannesburg struggles to pay the fees at his
son’s special school in Johannesburg:
Most [students at] mainstream schools don’t have to pay. But for us, we have to pay school fees. Lots of parents who have children with disabilities can’t work—we have to take care of them 24 hours. Schools write to ask why we 82 Human Rights Watch interview with Ancella Ramjas, director, Down Syndrome South Africa, Pretoria, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Robyn Beere, director, Inclusive Education South Africa, Cape Town, October 2014; Focus group discussion with members of the “Campaign to Promote the Right to Education for Children with Disabilities,” Cape Town, October 2014.
83 This is particularly the case in Gauteng and Western Cape provinces where special schools were traditionally set up to cater for white children with disabilities. Within Gauteng Province, many full-service schools are mainly in the outskirts of the city and the majority are Afrikaans speaking. Based on: Human Rights Watch interview with Hanlie Swanepoel, education therapist, Pretoria, November 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Jean Elphick, manager, Afrika Tikkun, Johannesburg, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Ancella Ramjas, director, Down Syndrome South Africa, Pretoria, October 2014; 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.
84 Provincial Departments of Education are guided by a “Resource Targeting Table” to define needs-based allocations, “National Norms and Standards for school funding,” pp. 27-28. See Department of Basic Education, “Amended National Norms and Standards for School Funding,” Government Gazette no. 38397, 16 January 2015.
85 Human Rights Watch interview with director, Vukuhambe Day Care Centre, Zwelethemba, Worcester, Western Cape, November 2014.
86 Human Rights Watch interview with the parents of Phelele, a 9-year-old boy with a sensory disability, village near KwaNgwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of Akani, a 9-year-old boy with Down Syndrome, village near Tzaneen, Limpopo province, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of Xolani, a 24-year-old girl with paralysis, Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, December 2014.
Albertina Sisulu Resource Centre, a public special school in Soweto, charges R300 ($27) per year for fees, according to the school’s principal. However, out of 250 students, only 75 can afford to pay the fees.88 The principal said the money supplements funding from the government’s National School Nutrition Programme89 and is used to buy groceries so that all students can eat the same food.90 Human Rights Watch also visited informal centers set up by parents from the most socially disadvantaged backgrounds to respond to the education needs of children not accommodated in formal care centers or special schools. Centers in Cape Town and Kimberley charged R250 ($23),91 and R150 ($14)92 per month respectively—an economically significant fee for single-parent households, as well as for parents who are unemployed or earn very low wages, whose living is often dependent on their child’s care dependency grant.
The “National Norms and Standards for School Funding,” the government’s guiding policy on school fees, and accompanying regulations, includes fee exemptions for families that cannot afford education.93 However, some parents were unaware of such exemptions, had only partial information about them, or said they were not always easy to obtain because schools often required documents, such as affidavits from a police station, that were 87 Human Rights Watch interview with the father of an 8-year-old boy with autism, focus group discussion with parents with children with disabilities, Johannesburg, October 2014.
88 Human Rights Watch interview with Bernard Lushozi, principal, Albertina Sisulu Resource Centre, Soweto, Johannesburg, October 2014.
89 South Africa’s National School Nutrition Programme is a “large government sponsored programme reaching over 8 million learners in primary and secondary schools” which largely focuses on school feeding programs to enhance children’s experience in schools – Department of Basic Education, “National School Nutrition Program,” undated, http://www.education.gov.za/TheDBE/DBEStructure/SocialandSchoolEnrichment/NationalSchoolNutritionProgramme/tabid /131/Default.aspx (accessed April 9, 2015).
90 Human Rights Watch interview with Bernard Lushozi, principal, Albertina Sisulu Resource Centre, Soweto, Johannesburg, October, 2014.
91 Human Rights Watch focus group discussion, Disabled Children’s Action Group Western Cape, Cape Town, October 2014.
92 Human Rights Watch meeting with Same Mongale, Thlabologo school manager, Kimberley, Northern Cape, November 2014.
93 Parents should qualify for full exemptions when “the combined annual gross income of the parents is less than 10 times the annual school fees per learner, “National Norms and Standards for school funding”, pp. 34-35; Department of Education, “Exemption of parents from the payment of School Fees Regulation 1998”, Government Gazette Notice no. 1293 of 1998, http://www.education.gov.za/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=LK2dmusQOjs%3D&tabid=188&mid=498.
“COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 26 difficult for foreign national parents to obtain.94 In some cases, schools waived fees based on parents’ individual circumstances.95 Despite having a fee waiver, Maria Mashimbaye, whose 11-year-old son attends a special
school, struggles with additional costs:
I was [paying] R400 ($43) per month [for nappies] plus R150 ($14) for school fees. The school had a lot of food he was allergic to so they also asked me to prepare his food. I spoke to the school and said, ‘The grant doesn’t cover all this. My husband doesn’t support me.’ So they waived the fees. Still, now I pay R400 for transport plus R400 for nappies. But he is outgrowing kid nappies and adult nappies are even more expensive.96 Although government policy on school fee exemptions states that children who are beneficiaries of a child dependency grant, a social development grant given to families with children with severe disabilities who are in need of full-time support and special care, are automatically exempt from paying fees,97 six parents reported paying for school fees and additional expenses with their grant.98 One of them was the mother of Akani, a 9-yearold boy with Down Syndrome, who now attends a special school with boarding facilities 100 kilometers from his home, who was not offered a fee waiver: “The [care dependency] grant is R1350 ($145) per month – when I checked, money [from the grant] will be able to maintain his school fees. He needs to pay R750 ($68) per term.”99 94 Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with parents of children with disabilities, Johannesburg, October 2014;
Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with members of Sidinga Uthando, Orange Farm, May 2015.