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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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95 Human Rights Watch interview with Bernard Lushozi, principal, Albertina Sisulu Resource Centre, Johannesburg, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Karin Swarz, principal, Prinshof School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Pretoria, November 2014.

96 Human Rights Watch interview with Maria Mashimbaye, the mother of a 10-year-old boy with spina bifida, Johannesburg, October 2014.

97 Department of Education, “Regulations Relating to the Exemption of Parents from Payment of School Fees in Public Schools”, 18 October 2006, s. 1( c).

98 The grant currently amounts to 1,410R ($128) per month. Government of South Africa, “Care dependency grant”, http://www.gov.za/services/child-care-social-benefits/care-dependency-grant (accessed April 9, 2015).

99 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 met children who had to travel 30 to 100 kilometers to access the nearest school that would accommodate them.101 The lack of inclusion or discrimination in nearby mainstream schools means some children with disabilities have no choice but to move to neighboring provinces and travel to bigger cities if they have been referred to special schools.102 Human Rights Watch found that transport fees represented an additional barrier for children with disabilities across the country and none of the students interviewed received government support or financial subsidies to get to schools.

Transport fees ranged from R150 ($14) to R580 ($53) per month in urban areas. However, in the remote and rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces, there was no transport for schools that were up to 100 kilometers away. Parents in this position had to pay for one-way trips that cost around R150 ($14) to R300 ($27).

The CRPD protects the right to personal mobility of persons with disabilities, including

their access to school.103 The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has urged states to:

Set out appropriate policies and procedures to make public transportation safe [and] easily accessible to children with disabilities, and free of charge, 100 Human Rights Watch interview with Bernard Lushozi, principal, Albertina Sisulu Resource Centre, Soweto, Johannesburg, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Zelda Mycroft, chief executive officer, Chaeli Cottage, Cape Town, October 2014; Human Rights Watch Interview with Fatima Shaboodien, principal, DeHeide Centre, Cape Town, October 2014.

101 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of a 16-year-old boy with an intellectual disability, Zama-Zama, KwaZuluNatal, November 2014; Cases shared by Hanlie Swanepoel, education therapist, Pretoria, November 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of a 9-year-old boy with Down syndrome, village near Tzaneen, Limpopo, October 2014;

Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with members of Sidinga Uthando, Orange Farm, May 2015.

102 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of a 9-year-old boy with Down syndrome, village near Tzaneen, Limpopo, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Robyn Beere, director, Inclusive Education South Africa, Cape Town, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Karin Swartz, principal, Prinshof School for the Blind, November 2014; Campaign to Promote the Right to Education for Children with Disabilities, “Factsheet 7: Out-of-School Children,” (2011); Human Rights Watch interview with Ancella Ramjas, director, Down Syndrome South Africa, Pretoria, October 2014; Legal Resources Centre, “Submissions for the General Day of Discussion on the Right to Education For Persons With Disabilities,” March 20, 2015, p. 5.

103 CRPD, art. 9(1)(a) and art. 20.

“COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 28 whenever possible, taking into account the financial resources of the parents or others caring for the child.104 The Department of Basic Education and Department of Transport have not yet adopted a national learner transport policy, which has been in draft form or under discussion since

2009.105 The absence of such a policy has left many gaps in the provision of adequate transportation for children with disabilities at the provincial level, where there is limited accommodation of students with disabilities in provincial policy and practice.106 This results in unequal access to transportation or transport subsidies.107 While some special schools that Human Rights Watch visited organize transport for students,108 parents have to pay a monthly fee for transport. Albertina Sisulu Resource Centre, for example, charges R300 ($27) per month. Bernard Lushozi, the school principal, said that if a parent had a child who was qualified to use the bus but could not afford to pay for it, they could “come twice a week to clean or supervise sports and help in the school.”109 Where schools have insufficient transportation or only cover a certain distance from the school, parents pay private drivers to take their children to school. In several cases, parents said it was difficult to cover such costs. For example, Mpotse Mofokeng said she could not afford to pay to send Katlego, her 7-year-old son, to a special school in

Johannesburg approximately 30 kilometers from their township:





One boarding school said they could take him, but not to board. They could only board children with physical disabilities. So, he didn’t go… I could not 104 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment 9, Children with Disabilities,” (2006), CRC/C/GC/9, http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/898586b1dc7b4043c1256a450044f331/405ba882cb9eb3a0c12572f100506ac4/$FILE/G

0740702.pdf (accessed August 5, 2015), para. 39. See also CRC, art. 23(3).

105 This draft policy was open for consultation while Human Rights Watch conducted its research mission. Notice 1004 of 2014, 13 November 2014, draft policy, http://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/38207_gen1004.pdf (accessed August 5, 2015).

106 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.

107 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Patricia Martin, Advocacy Aid, Cape Town, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Lisa Draga, attorney, Equal Education Law Centre, Cape Town, October 2014.

108 Albertina Sisulu Resource Centre, Soweto; Prinshof School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Pretoria; Boitumelo Special School, Kimberley.

109 Human Rights Watch interview with Bernard Lushozi, principal, Albertina Sisulu Resource Centre, Soweto, Johannesburg, October 2014. Such measures are permitted in the Department of Basic Education’s “Norms and Standards on School Funding,” p. 34, para. 139.

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Ten parents said they could not pay private drivers. A father told Human Rights Watch that “the school can understand [when you don’t pay] but if you don’t pay for [private] transport, then they’re not going to take your child. Schools should provide transport.”111 Moreover, private drivers often charged children with disabilities and parents an extra or double fee, particularly for transporting assistive devices such as wheelchairs or strollers.112 Human Rights Watch also heard experiences of private taxi or “cabbie” drivers refusing to stop whenever they saw a child or a person in a wheelchair.113 “Some drivers don’t want to stop to put a wheelchair in the back so children don’t even have access to transport,” Brian Tigere, a social worker in Polokwane, said.114

–  –  –

110 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of a 7-year-old boy with an intellectual disability, Orange Farm, Johannesburg, October 2014.

111 The father of the boy with autism wished to remain anonymous. Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with parents of children with disabilities, Johannesburg, October 2014.

112 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with the mother of a 15-year-old with cerebral palsy, Cape Town, November 2014.

113 Human Rights Watch interview with Section 27 team, Johannesburg, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interviews with members of Siphilisa Isizwe DPO, Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014.

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

115 Human Rights Watch interview with Bongiwe, a 17-year-old girl with physical disabilities, village near Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014.

–  –  –

Special Assistants A number of NGOs and experts told Human Rights Watch that, throughout the country, parents of children with disabilities are asked to hire and pay for private special care assistants as a pre-condition to enroll in a mainstream classroom. 117 Three children with physical disabilities interviewed by Human Rights Watch who attended mainstream and full-service schools also said they were asked to hire and pay for private special or class assistants as a pre-condition to enroll in their schools.118 In one case, the mother of a 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy was told she would have to move to the special school 100 kilometers away from their village to help her son eat and move around school.119 Privately hired class assistants often help children move around schools. They may carry children around because schools have inadequate access for wheelchairs or lack ramps, help them to use textbooks or materials in class, feed them, or take them to the toilet.120 Such conditions in schools discriminate against children with disabilities, who would otherwise not be able to participate and learn on an equal basis with all children in mainstream environments. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommends that governments provide personal assistance, among other necessary tools, so that 116 Ibid.

117 Human Rights Watch interview with Hanlie Swanepoel, education therapist, Pretoria, November 2014; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with former teacher at a special school for blind children in Cape Town, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Sandra Ambrose, national coordinator, Disabled Children’s Action Group, Cape Town, October 2014.

118 Ibid.

119 Human Rights Watch interview with the parents of a 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014.

120 Human Rights Watch interview with Makhosi, a 23-year-old woman with severe physical disabilities, village near KwaNgwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Edward Ndopu, youth coordinator, Amnesty International, Johannesburg, November 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Michaela Mycroft, activist and 2011 Children’s Peace Prize Winner, Cape Town, October 2014.

–  –  –

121 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment 9, para. 65, p. 18.

122 Human Rights Watch interview with Hanlie Swanepoel, education therapist, Pretoria, November 2014; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Vanessa dos Santos, president, Down Syndrome International, Johannesburg, formerly President of Down Syndrome South Africa, December 2014.

–  –  –

We don’t mainstream, we are dumping [children].

—Basie Jahnig, principal, Boitumelo Special School, Kimberley, November If the children are old and out of school, it’s not their fault, it’s the government’s fault.

—Kululiwe, member of Siphilisa Isizwe disability organization, KwaNgwanase, November 2014124 Several factors impede the ability of children with disabilities to access education at an appropriate age, including problematic referrals and too-long waiting lists.

Basic education is compulsory in South Africa: all children should be in school by the age of compulsory education, mandated as 5 to 6 years for grade R or pre-school, and 7 to 15 years for basic education.125 In 1996, the Schools Act directed the minister of Basic Education to publish a government gazette with the compulsory age requirements for “learners with special education needs.”126 As of May 2015, this document had not been published.127 Human Rights Watch found that many children with disabilities are denied an education because of their disability, or the needs and support they may need to learn on an equal basis in schools.

Sandile, a 10-year-old boy who is deaf and has partial sight, has never been to school. His mother, Nomsa, said she had never tried to register him in the mainstream school nearby, where his twin sister is enrolled. “I wish it could be like that but because he’s blind he can’t go to that school,” she said. Instead, doctors first referred him to a special school in 123 Human Rights Watch interview with Basie Jahnig, principal, Boitumelo special school, Kimberley, November 2014.

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

125 Department of Education, “Age Requirements for Admission to an Ordinary Public School,” Government Notice No. 2433 of 1998.

126 South African Schools Act, s. 3 (2).

127 Human Rights Watch requested further information from the national Department of Basic Education to clarify the status of this pending government gazette but received no responses to its information requests. See Annex.

–  –  –

Many children with disabilities who do access the education system do so when they are much older than students without disabilities. Thirteen children, ranging from 8 to 16 years old, and four young adults with disabilities interviewed by Human Rights Watch had not entered school at the age stipulated in South African law, as a result of long waiting lists and referrals to different special schools. Eight children with disabilities, ranging from 7 years to 15 years old, were registered in day care centers or crèches, waiting for school placements.



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