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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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Lack of reasonable accommodation impacts children with various types of disabilities attending all types of public schools.182 Many of the physical and attitudinal barriers documented fail to respect accessibility requirements in the CRPD.183 These students confronted the challenges of having no ramps to access classrooms or toilets.184 Makhosi, a 23-year-old woman with severe physical disabilities, said: “I still have the same problems with access and ramps. I need to be carried everywhere … 182 Human Rights Watch interview with Legal and Policy team, Section 27, Johannesburg, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Jean Elphick, program manager, Afrika Tikkun, Johannesburg, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Robyn Beere, director, Inclusive Education South Africa; Human Rights Watch interviews with Disabled Children’s Action Group Western Cape and Northern Cape Chapters, October and December 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Lindiwe Mokate, basic education and child rights commissioner, and Advocate Bokankatla Joseph Malatji, disability rights commissioner, South Africa Human Rights Commission, Johannesburg, January 2015.

183 UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “General Comment No. 2: Article 9: Accessibility,” April 2014, para. 39; See op. cit. section II (c) “Right to Education on an Equal Basis.” 184 Human Rights Watch interview with Bongiwe, a 17-year-old girl with physical disabilities, Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Michaela Mycroft, a 21-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, Cape Town, October 2014.

–  –  –

The lack of reasonable accommodation also translated into children being treated differently when they needed extra time to reach their often inaccessible classrooms186 or

take exams.187 Michaela wrote:

–  –  –

Makhosi shared that her “first problem was when we were writing exams … I was not finishing the exam on time because I write slowly … the teachers don’t give me enough time, they aren’t patient with me. The school said I should write to Pretoria to ask for more time for my exams for the next academic year.”189 Lack of Appropriate Learning Material and Subjects The CRPD states that people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or have low vision have the right to access “the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development.”190 185 Human Rights Watch interview with Makhosi Ntombikayise, a 23-year-old woman with severe physical disabilities, KwaNgwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014.

186 Human Rights Watch interview with Bongiwe, a 17-year-old girl with physical disabilities, Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Michaela Mycroft, a 21-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, Cape Town, October 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with mother of Xolani, a 24-year-old woman with paralysis, Kwa-Ngwanase (Manguzi), KwaZulu-Natal, November 2014.

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

188 Copies of Michaela Mycroft’s reflections and letters provided to Human Rights Watch; Michaela Mycroft, “This is Me,” http://www.chaelz-thisisme.blogspot.co.uk/ (accessed July 8, 2015).

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

190 CRPD, art. 24(3)(c).

“COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 46 Advocate Bokankatla Joseph Malatji, disabilities commissioner at South Africa’s Human Rights Commission, told Human Rights Watch that children with sensory disabilities face exclusion across the education system due to the lack of materials in Braille and sign language in mainstream and special schools.191 Despite President Jakob Zuma’s official announcement that sign language would become an official language in South Africa’s schools,192 children who are deaf or hard of hearing face barriers learning sign language, particularly given the limited availability of specialized centers that teach sign language,193 and the lack of teachers who can teach sign language to an adequate standard.194 Phelele, 9, from Manguzi, was only taught sign language by his speech therapist, outside school. His parents told Human Rights Watch that teachers were not trained to sign in his mainstream school.195 In addition, serious systemic and administrative failures continue to mean there is a lack of appropriate textbooks for children who are blind or have low vision.196 Cathy Donaldson, president of Blind SA, told Human Rights Watch that many children have been waiting for textbooks for the last three academic years due to delays in printing.197 The government reported in 2015 that it has slowly increased the provision of Braille textbooks and sign language in schools.198 191 Human Rights Watch interview with Advocate Bokankatla Joseph Malatji, disability rights commissioner, South African Human Rights Commission, Johannesburg, January 2015.

192 State of the Nation Address by His Excellency Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa on the occasion of the Joint Sitting of Parliament, Cape Town, 13 February 2014. South African Sign Language (SASL) is protected by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, under art. 6(5)(a)(iii).





193 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.

194 Human Rights Watch interview with Legal and Policy team, Section 27, Johannesburg, October 2014. In September 2014 – with four months to go before the full roll-out in schools across the country—the National Department of Basic Education informed Parliament that “92 teachers of the total number of 1,232 teachers in Schools for the Deaf are qualified in SASL.

859 teachers have received in-service SASL training. The number of teachers who are able to use SASL is not known.” Question 1776 (NW214tE) by Ms H S Boshoff (DA). Date of Publication of Internal Question Paper: 26/09/2014.

195 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.

196 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Nikki Stein, advocate, Section 27, January 2015; Human Rights Watch interview with Cathy Donaldson, president, Blind SA, Johannesburg, October 2014; Section 27, “Submission on the Right to Education for Persons with Disabilities in South Africa to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” March 2015, pp. 8-9.

197 Ibid., Blind SA, “Reflections, Blind SA Annual Report and Financial Statements,” (2014), p. 37.

198 Department of Basic Education, “Report on the Implementation of Education White Paper 6 on Inclusive Education. An Overview for the Period 2013-2015,” May 2015.

47 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH | AUGUST 2015 To cover this gap, teachers at Prinshof School for the Blind and Visually Impaired translate textbooks and classroom materials into Braille every evening of term. Yet, according to the school, Prinshof has the resources and staff to compensate for the lack of textbooks compared to other blind schools across the country.199 Schools may incur enormous expense to buy their own materials.

Karin Swarz, Prinshof’s principal, told Human Rights Watch that the Braille master copy of one textbook is R24,000 ($2,170). According to the principal, the school bears the financial brunt of purchasing the original material, despite it being a clear obligation for the Department of Basic Education to ensure students who are blind have the necessary materials in order to learn the curriculum.200 Cathy Donaldson, the president of Blind SA, said other schools may not be able to cover the gap, resulting in students not using appropriate material201 Moreover, translating textbooks takes time and resources—particularly where ordinary textbooks contain visuals that are hard to adapt for children with visual impairments.

Human Rights Watch was told that the government’s shift to a new “highly visual” curriculum in 2012, known as the “Curriculum Policy Assessment Statements,” made it more complex to ‘translate’ this into appropriate material for students who are blind or have low vision.202 Karin Swarz, for example, told Human Rights Watch that her school is one of the few special schools for children who are blind or have low vision which teaches mathematics, yet faces very significant challenges to do so.203 Tim Fish-Hodgson, a researcher at Section 27, a leading national litigation public interest law center, told Human Rights Watch that the lack of resources and appropriate material in many special schools have led them to phase out mathematics, literacy and application, 199 Human Rights Watch interview with Karin Swarz, principal, Prinshof School for the Blind, Visually Impaired, Pretoria, November 2014.

200 Ibid.

201 Human Rights Watch interview with Cathy Donaldson, president, Blind SA, Johannesburg, October 2014.

202 Ibid.; Department of Basic Education, “National Curriculum Statements Grades R-12,” undated, http://www.education.gov.za/Curriculum/NCSGradesR12/tabid/419/Default.aspx (accessed April 1, 2015).

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

“COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 48 for older students.204 This may stop children who are blind or have low vision from studying mathematics, geography, sciences, business, economics or history.205

–  –  –

For his safety, I decided to take him out of the boarding school.

—Lala, mother of a 14-year-old boy with autism, Limpopo, October 2014206 Every child has a constitutional right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse, or degradation.207 Corporal punishment and psychological abuse in schools has been banned since 1996, and any person found guilty of an offence can be charged for assault.208 A pervasive culture of silence remains in schools, leading to insufficient accountability for perpetrators of sexual assault or violence against students.209 The Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention found that close to 40 percent of sexual assaults went unreported by students in 2012.210 Of those reported, educators or administrators took action in 61.9 percent of instances of sexual assault, leaving over a third with no response despite educators or officials indicating knowledge about correct procedures.211 There is a notable absence of a legally enforceable national protocol to tackle corporal punishment and sexual abuse in all public ordinary schools.212 Human Rights Watch 206 Human Rights Watch interview with Lala, the mother of a 14-year-old boy with autism, Polokwane, Limpopo, October 2014.

207 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, s. 28(1)(d).

208 Government of South Africa, National Education Policy Act (1996), Act No. 27 of 1996, http://www.education.gov.za/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=l73mPb%2Fja4c%3D&tabid=185&mid=1828 (accessed August 5, 2015), s. 4 (1)(n); and South African Schools’ Act, s. 10(1) and (2). See also Cosmas Maphosa and Almon Shumba, “Educator’s disciplinary capabilities after the banning of corporal punishment in South African schools,” South African Journal of Education, vol. 30, (2010), pp. 387-399.

209 Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of the Witwatersrand School of Law Cornell Law School’s Avon Global Center for Women and Justice and International Human Rights Clinic, “Sexual Violence by Educators in South African Schools: Gaps in Accountability,” May 2014, http://resourcecentre.savethechildren.se/sites/default/files/documents/south_africasexual_violence_by_educators_in_south_african_schools-_gaps_in_accountability_may_2014.pdf (accessed August 5, 2015).

210 Patrick Burton and Lezanne Leoschut, “School Violence in South Africa: Results of the 2012 National School Violence Study,” Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, 2012, http://www.cjcp.org.za/uploads/2/7/8/4/27845461/monograph12school-violence-in-south_africa.pdf (accessed August 5, 2015), p. 41.

211 Ibid, pp. 42-43. Looking further back at data from 2005-2006, the Institute for Security Studies determined that National Prosecuting Authority “only prosecuted 14 percent of cases, declined to prosecute 60 percent, and referred the rest back to the police for further investigation.” Jean Redpath, “Failing to Prosecute? Assessing the state of the National Prosecuting Authority in South Africa,” Institute for Security Studies, 2012, in Centre for Applied 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).

212 Faranaaz Veriava, “Promoting effective enforcement of the prohibition against corporal punishment in South African schools,” paper commissioned by the Centre for Child Law, University of Pretoria, January 2014, pp. 49-50; Centre for Applied “COMPLICIT IN EXCLUSION” 50 documented, and was made aware of, numerous cases of physical violence, and neglect of children and young adults with disabilities in mainstream, full-service, and special schools.213 The mother of a 12-year-old boy with autism told Human Rights Watch that she removed her son from his special school after two serious incidents of violence by teachers. Her son had begun to experience regular epileptic fits after numerous incidents in the school.

One day, he came back home. He had damage to his head and scars on his back… The head teacher said one of the teachers was holding [him] down on the floor. [Someone else said] one of the teachers was beating him.

[Then] I was told one of the teachers was holding and beating [him] with a stick. They didn’t want to give me the name of the teacher. [My son] didn’t want to go to school after that. One Monday, I forced him to go to school.

On Wednesday, I came home and saw [him] on the bed. He was having an [epileptic] fit. I said that was it.214

One father in Johannesburg told Human Rights Watch:



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