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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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Problematic Referrals The way that school officials make referrals and decisions about enrollment—specifically, failing to include children with disabilities in mainstream settings in the early years of education, and referring those who are already in mainstream schools to special schools— often compromises the experiences of children and young adults with disabilities, and their lifelong education opportunities.

Academic research and reports by national NGOs have confirmed the widespread practice of placing children with disabilities in special schools, based on an assessment of their disability rather than on their abilities and the level of need and support needed to ensure they can learn in a local mainstream school.129 Human Rights Watch found that 10 of the 70 children interviewed who attended mainstream or full-service schools, were waiting for a referral to a special school because their current schools could or would no longer accommodate them.

128 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of a 10-year-old boy with multiple disabilities, KwaMakhanya, KwaZuluNatal, November 2014.

129 Legal Resources Centre, “Submissions for the General Day of Discussion on the Right to Education for Persons with Disabilities,” 20 March 2015; The African Child Policy Forum, “Children with disabilities in South Africa: The hidden reality”, Addis Ababa: 2011; Dana Donohue and Juan Bornman, “The challenges of realising inclusive education in South Africa”, South African Journal of Education, vol. 34(2), (2014); Gerison Lansdown, “Disabled Children in South Africa: Progress in Implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Rights for Disabled Children, (2002), http://www.daa.org.uk/uploads/pdf/SA%20Childrens%20report%20.pdf (accessed August 5, 2015).

“COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 34 Such practices contradict the government’s broader aim of achieving inclusive education by ensuring children with disabilities can attend nearby mainstream schools, while being guaranteed adequate support through reasonable accommodations.130 The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has repeatedly called on states party to the CRPD to end the segregation of children with disabilities, and to “take necessary steps to ensure that pupils who attend special schools are enrolled in inclusive schools,”131 “establish and define goals and timeframes to ensure students with disabilities transition from special needs education to inclusive schools,”132 and “reallocate resources from the special education system to promote inclusive education in mainstream schools.”133 Historically, children with intellectual or multiple disabilities, and children with autism spectrum disorder, have not been able to access public schools of any type, because of the limited availability of schools tailored to their needs, as well as discriminatory attitudes about the value of education for children with their needs.134 Members of the Campaign to Promote the Right to Education for Children with Disabilities, as well as service providers and experts across the country, told Human Rights Watch that, while some progress has been made at a provincial level to address the issue,135 children 130 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with WonderBoy Qaji, chairperson, Disabled Youth South Africa, October 2014;

Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with members of the Campaign to Promote the Right to Education for Children with Disabilities, Cape Town, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Robyn Beere, director, Inclusive Education South Africa, October 2014.

131 United Nations, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “Concluding observations on the initial report of Argentina as approved by the Committee at its eighth session (17-28 September 2012), CRPD/C/ARG/CO/1, para. 38.

132 Translated by Human Rights Watch from the official Spanish version. United Nations, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “Observaciones finales sobre el informe inicial de República Dominicana,” CRPD/C/DOM/CO/1, para.46 (b).

133 United Nations, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “Concluding observations on the initial report of China, adopted by the Committee at its eighth session (September 17-28, 2012), CRPD/C/CHN/CO/1, para. 36.

134 Human Rights Watch interview with Tessa Wood, director, and Fatima Shaboodien, chairperson, Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability, Cape Town, 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. 8. In 2012, 3085 “learners with severe intellectual disability” were attending ordinary schools versus 27,837 learners who were enrolled in special schools. Department of Social Development, “Draft First Periodic Country Report on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD),” Notice 445 of 2015, May 18, 2015, pp. 36-37.

135 A number of nongovernmental organizations and associations based in the Western Cape acknowledged progress made by the Department of Social Development in enrolling children with high support needs in special schools and care centers in the Western Cape province, particularly as a result of a 2011 High Court decision against the Department of Basic Education.

Human Rights Watch interview with Tessa Wood, director, and Fatima Shaboodien, chairperson, Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability, Cape Town, October 2014.





35 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH | AUGUST 2015 with “severe and profound” disabilities across the country are still affected in their access to any public school.136 Sipho, 14, who has epilepsy and an intellectual disability, sits with his aunt outside their house in Orange Farm township, Johannesburg. Sipho had to drop out of his first special school after having epileptic fits and was refused admission by second special school. He was finally able to attend a third special school after a two-year wait with the help of a local NGO. © 2015 Elin Martínez/Human Rights Watch Arbitrary and Unchecked School Decision-Making There is a problem with gate-keeping in schools. Schools are not admitting children in the first place to avoid predictable drop-outs.

—Henry Hendricks, general secretary, NAPTOSA, January 2015137 136 Human Rights Watch interview with Robyn Beere, director, Inclusive Education South Africa, Cape Town, October 2014;

Human Rights Watch interview with Tessa Wood, director, and Fatima Shaboodien, chairperson, Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability, Cape Town, October 2014.; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with members of Campaign to Promote the Right to Education for Children with Disabilities, Cape Town, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Brian Tigere, social worker, APD Limpopo, Polokwane, October 2014.

137 Human Rights Watch interview with Henry Hendricks, general secretary, National Professional Teachers Organization of

South Africa, Pretoria, January 2015.

“COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 36 Robyn Beere, director of Inclusive Education South Africa, an organization that provides support and advice on inclusive education to parents of children with disabilities, warned that the government needs to think carefully about what type of school children with disabilities are placed in, particularly closely examining and vetting referrals to special schools, for “[they] are fundamentally changing a child’s life and placing limitations on the child.”138 Mainstream Schools At a special needs day care center in Zwelethemba, near Worcester, only two out of nineteen children proceeded on to a mainstream school in 2013, according to the center’s director.139

One was a girl with Down Syndrome. The center’s director, told Human Rights Watch:

–  –  –

Inclusive education experts strongly believe that children with Down Syndrome, as many other children with disabilities, thrive and benefit the most when they learn in mainstream environments and should be accommodated in mainstream schools with the right level of support.141 Various practitioners pointed out many cases where schools have done this successfully.142 Yet, inclusive education organizations following and monitoring individual children’s cases told Human Rights Watch that a large number of children with Down Syndrome continue to be referred to special schools, especially in rural areas.143 138 Human Rights Watch interview with Robyn Beere, director, Inclusive Education Western Cape, Cape Town, October 2014.

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

140 Ibid.

141 Human Rights Watch interview with Ancella Ramjas, director, Down Syndrome South Africa, Pretoria, October 2014;

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, December 2014.

142 Ibid.

143 Human Rights Watch interview with Ancella Ramjas, director, Down Syndrome South Africa, Pretoria, October 2014;

Human Rights Watch interview with Hanlie Swanepoel, education therapist, Pretoria, November 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Difference Motseo, officer, Down Syndrome Limpopo, October 2014.

–  –  –

We tried to put him in a [mainstream] school but they said they couldn’t put him in that school because he has disabilities. The school said that he was naughty. Because of Down Syndrome he isn’t like other children so they [said they] can’t teach him. At the therapy they promised to phone if there’s a space in a special school. I’ve been waiting since last year.144 Similarly, the mother of Akani, a 9-year-old boy with Down Syndrome, who now attends a

boarding special school, said:

He was in that [mainstream] primary school for three months. After they explained my child wasn’t coping, he stayed with me at home. I registered him in a special school. There was no other school where he would be admitted. I phoned the school and asked if they could make arrangements and was told that I would have to wait until next year. I went to other schools. In another primary school, they said they couldn’t accommodate him. They never recommended another school, they first said ‘no.’145 As a consequence of exclusion, small nongovernmental schools are being established to enroll children with various types of disabilities who were often turned down in public schools.146 In the Western Cape alone, between 70 and 80 out of 1,000 babies are born with fetal alcohol syndrome.147 Yet, according to practitioners, because fetal alcohol syndrome is not a visible disability and mainstream schools do not address the particular learning and 144 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of an 8-year-old boy with Down Syndrome, Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014.

145 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of a 9-year-old boy with Down Syndrome, Tzaneen, Limpopo, October 2014.

146 Human Rights Watch interview with Bronwen Jones,director, Johannesburg School for Blind, Low Vision and Multiply Disabled Children, Johannesburg, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Zelda Mycroft, chief executive officer, Chaeli Cottage, Cape Town, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Ancella Ramjas, director, Down Syndrome South Africa, Pretoria, October 2014.

147 World Health Organization, “Fetal alcohol syndrome: dashed hopes, damaged lives,” (2011), http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/6/11-020611/en/ (accessed on April 22, 2014).

“COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 38 behavioral challenges faced by many children with the syndrome, children drop out of mainstream schools or become absent for long periods.148 Human Rights Watch visited the Home of Hope school, outside Cape Town, which focused on children with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder living in foster care who had dropped out or been forced out of mainstream schools due to behavioral and learning issues.149 Children with this syndrome often manifest deep behavioral issues.150 Aisling Foley, an education manager at Home of Hope, told Human Rights Watch that it is difficult to find adequate placements for children with this syndrome who have dropped out of school because they do not meet the necessary intelligence quotient (IQ) levels to enter special schools and are often not accepted in mainstream schools due to behavioral issues.151 Human Rights Watch met Anne-Marie, a 15-year-old girl with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder manifested in an intellectual disability. According to her teacher at Home of Hope, she was deemed uneducable in her previous mainstream school and dropped out.

Through individualized learning geared at her level of need, teachers have been able to ensure she is able to reach a basic level of understanding and gain basic skills.152 But experts maintain that most mainstream schools will not give children with fetal alcohol syndrome the same level of dedicated attention and they will drop out as a result.153 Parents of children with autism and NGOs supporting their families told Human Rights Watch that there is not enough specialized attention in all types of public schools.154 148 Kirstie Rendall-Mkosi, et al., “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in South Africa: Situational and Gap Analysis,” March 2008, http://www.unicef.org/southafrica/SAF_resources_fetalalcohol.pdf (accessed June 10, 2015); Aisling Foley, “FASD: Finding Hope,” Home of Hope, 2011, http://www.homeofhope.co.za/uploads/files/FASDbyAislingFoley1.pdf (accessed June 10, 2015).

149 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisling Foley, education manager, and Lyn Thyjsee, educational psychologist, Home of Hope school, Cape Town, October 2014.

150 Ibid.

151 World Health Organization, “Fetal alcohol syndrome: dashed hopes, damaged lives,” (2011), http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/6/11-020611/en/ (accessed April 22, 2014); Human Rights Watch visit to Home of Hope and Amathemba Center, Cape Town, October 2014.

152 Ibid.

153 Human Rights Watch interview with Professor Leslie Swartz, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, October 2014; Email exchanges with Elize Oosthuizen, Kambro Foundation, Fraserburg, Northern Cape, December 4, 2014, February 10 and February 24, 2015.



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