Minister Angie Motshekga hosted the United States of America (USA) delegation that visited the Department on 08 February 2016 to explore various mechanisms that can be adopted in dealing with issues on Inclusive Education. The DBE and the USA have entered into a three year collaboration (2015 - 2017) to share expertise in improving efficiency and equity in inclusion and to address factors that contribute to the high dropout rate in schools, particularly for the vulnerable. Minister Motshekga and the South African delegation visited Washington DC in October 2015 as part of the collaboration programme.
Dr Moses Simelane, Director for Inclusive Education, highlighted that the DBE has developed a number of programmes, interventions and strategies to address issues on inclusion, including the Policy on screening, identification, assessment and support (SIAS) and its implementation plan, which were approved in December 2014. The Policy serves as a mechanism for the early identification of barriers to learning and intervention, whilst highlighting the role of parents.
Dr Simelane added that, although there has been significant progress made around Inclusive Education, more needs to be done in ensuring that necessary resources are provided in special needs schools. “Some schools have limited specialist professionals and support staff available in the system, resulting in limited support - both in the classroom and in hostels. Strengthening special schools include capacity building, infrastructure improvement and curriculum offerings. It also includes teacher development in specialised skills such as Sign Language and Braille, thereby ensuring that teachers have requisite skills to effectively teach in special schools for the deaf and the blind,” said Dr Simelane.
In her opening remarks, Minister Motshekga said that engagement between the two countries happens at a time when other countries around the globe also reaffirmed their commitment to the development of human capital, which are encapsulated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) envisioned towards 2030. “The visit to Washington DC with the SA delegation that I was leading in October 2015 provided a rich, insightful and invaluable experience. I marvelled at observing Curriculum Differentiation in practice in classrooms and the assurance and hope that it seeks to guarantee every single learner, effective participation and support in the learning experience in a regular classroom to ensure success. It is in this regard that we hope to tap into your experience and expertise in teacher development for us to successfully institutionalise Differentiation.”
“The SDGs commit education systems of the world towards one goal, the goal of ensuring that education systems are inclusive, equitable and are of quality such that they can promote lifelong learning for all. Education in South Africa is a fundamental human right and may therefore not be denied to anyone. The DBE is sparing no efforts to ensure that the right to basic education is promoted, protected and enhanced, a commitment that translates to promotion of the inclusivity principle and concomitant equitable and quality education for all. Inclusivity is furthermore endorsed by our plan of government, the National Development Plan, by advocating for the provision of an inclusive education that will enable everyone to participate effectively in a free society, a vision that the plan carries till 2030,” explained the Minister.
In conclusion, Minister Motshekga thanked the USA delegation for the collaboration on Inclusive Education. “As you will be apprising yourselves of our context and experiences, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to be as critical, objective and interrogative of the experiences so that in taking the collaboration forward, we may all move from an informed premise and not at cross-purposes so as to derive meaning from the collaboration. I am therefore looking forward to your honest reflections after this, and of course to the seminar that you will be facilitating at the end of your visit on Friday. I wish you all fruitful engagements that will translate to tangible outcomes and decisive actions that will take the collaboration forward,” she said.
Basic Education Deputy Director-General for Social Mobilisation and Support Services, Dr Granville Whittle, the Chief Director for Strategic Planning, Research and Co-ordination, Ms Carol Nuga Deliwe, and Deputy Representative of UNICEF, Dr Yulia Krieger, made valuable presentations during the session.