Programme Director: Director-General, Mr. Mweli
Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to South Africa, HE Mr Marcus Cornaro
Other representatives of diplomatic missions of the European Union
Director-General of the Department of Higher Education and Training
Prof. John Volmink, Chairperson of Umalusi
Representatives of our Partner Organisations,
- the British Council,
- Flemish International Development Agency,
- Christoffel Blindenmission,
- MiET Africa and Inclusive Education South Africa
- University of Cape Town,
- University of the Witwatersrand,
- North West University,
- University of the Free State,
- University of Fort Hare,
All Senior Officials of the Departments of Higher Education and Training, Basic Education and other State departments
Representatives of Umalusi, SAQA, QCTO and SACE
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great privilege for the Department of Basic Education to host you all at this launch of the four grants in Teaching and Learning for Early Learning and Inclusive Education. The ideal of collaborating with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) in improving initial and continued teacher education has been longstanding and has now materialised through the generous funding of the European Union and International Civil Society Partners. Since 2004 to date, the Department of Basic Education has relied heavily on donor support from the European Union to realise the goals and objectives of our Policy on Inclusive Education as outlined in Education White Paper 6. The rigorous and visionary planning of colleagues in DHET, specifically Dr Whitty Green, has brought about this collaboration which will hopefully, over the next three years, reap several benefits for the Basic Education Sector.
As education systems internationally strive to improve access to quality education for all, amidst growing concerns about drop-out rates and youth unemployment, inclusive education is increasingly seen as one of the critical mechanisms to achieve real positive change.
When Cabinet approved the White Paper 6 on Inclusive Education in 2001, it set as a goal the full scale implementation of an inclusive education and training system at all levels by 2021.
After reviewing the progress made during the first 15 years of this period, the Department of Basic Education found that there has been significant progress in many areas of implementation. It is, however, also felt that the progress should be accelerated and expanded across the system over the next few years towards 2021 also to include Early Childhood Development. Thus, several steps have been taken during the last two years to ensure that all sectors within Education take responsibility for ensuring that the constitutional right of learners with disabilities to access a full cycle of quality education and support is realised in special as well as in ordinary schools.
However, inclusive education is not only about learners with disabilities, but about all learners. There are still too many learners who are excluded from and within schools and whose needs are not met in such a way that they can reach their full potential. These are children from rural communities, children and youth who live on the streets, children from the poorest of the poor who have little access to the resources that urban children have. Also, learners who are different in some or other way, who speak different languages, come from different cultures, learn differently, have a different sexual orientation, are gifted or have emotional problems. Why should a learner with albinism or a learner in a wheelchair or with a cognitive disability be referred to a special school because they do not feel welcome at their local neighbourhood school? How can we call ourselves a free and democratic society if these discriminatory attitudes still persist?
Everyone in education and in society as a whole should be working together to ensure that all persons strive for and achieve their full potential in schools that are themselves welcoming, enabling and geared to combat all forms of exclusion. Too many parents contact the Department on a weekly basis to complain that their children are not receiving the necessary support in classrooms to overcome their learning difficulties or that they are bullied and marginalised without the school having any systems or structures in place to combat this.
The challenges which children and youth who are excluded from school and from learning face have a profound effect on the rest of their lives. To deny people of their human rights in this way, as former President Nelson Mandela said in 2004, is to challenge their very humanity. This we cannot afford particularly when our societies, given the legacy of discrimination and segregation, are still faced with the triple challenge of inequality, poverty and unemployment.
The Department of Basic Education has, with support of the European Union over many years since 2004 achieved some critical milestones which will be taken forward in a sustained focus on Inclusive Education in 2017 to 2021.
The implementation of the Policy on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (2014) is well underway. Since 2015 13032 teachers, 1367 officials and 3610 schools have been trained on the Policy. When fully implemented, teachers and parents will receive the necessary support to ensure that learners can be included in their local neighbourhood schools.
The Curriculum for South African Sign Language is being implemented in schools. This will introduce a new era in the provision of quality education for persons who are Deaf.
The institutionalisation of curriculum differentiation is a key priority of the Department and it is hoped that this programme will develop a number of practical courses to effectively equip newly qualified and existing teachers. Ongoing training through a variety of modalities is critically needed to ensure that each teacher has the knowledge and skills to apply inclusive pedagogy. The kind of teachers that are needed should:
“Understand difference as an essential aspect of human development in any conceptualisation of learning; Believe that they are competent to teach all children; and Work collaboratively with others in support of everyone in the learning community of the classroom” (Prof Lani Florian, University of Edinburgh).
Through the introduction of Information Communication Technology (ICTs) and assistive technology, learners with specific learning support needs could be more effectively supported in ordinary classes. The Department is collaborating with key partners in business to expand, through Operation Phakisa, its e-learning strategies.
The workbooks that have been adapted for Braille, large print and augmentative and alternative communication, are already assisting hundreds of learners in special and ordinary schools to participate in lessons together with their peers.
I am also happy to report that an expert team, in collaboration with the Department of Higher Education and Training has completed a Draft Technical Occupational Curriculum and exit level qualification at NQF Level 1 to provide more differentiated pathways from the senior phase onwards for learners who have an interest and aptitude for vocational education. Developing more artisans and teachers to deliver this programme in future, will be a critical area of collaboration to be explored with DHET.
The Draft Policy on the Provision of Quality Education and Support for Learners with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability will be published for public comment in these days. Together with a Learning Programme, this Policy proposes a model through which collaborative service delivery to a large number of children, who are not in school, could be strengthened.
Finally, progress has been made with the development of a revised funding and post provisioning system which would ensure that there are more resources allocated to mainstream schools to introduce inclusive education but also to ensure that special schools have access to the resources required to provide specialised and quality education and support. There is a critical shortage of therapists and other health professionals in the country. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that the Departments of Health and Basic Education collaborate to make more effective use of the services of those who work in the sector.
In the field of Early Childhood Development (ECD), much has also been collaboratively achieved between the Departments of Social Development and Basic Education.
In 2015 the National Integrated ECD Policy was promulgated to ensure quality service delivery for children from birth to four (4) years. The National Curriculum Framework which was developed and finalised by the Department of Basic Education in 2015 and is currently being rolled out at provincial level, will contribute largely to improvement of the quality of Early Childhood Development for all children. The professionalisation of ECD practitioners for the age group birth to four, which is the focus of this programme, is welcomed. It is important for government that the quality of early stimulation and development is constantly improved so as to improve the life chances and education prospects of all young children, including those with disabilities.
The proposed outputs of the collaborative programme are fully supported by the Department of Basic Education. The use of Professional Learning Communities can be strengthened to improve curriculum at all levels, starting at DBE level.
I would like to conclude with the words of wisdom from our founding father of the new South Africa, former President Mandela who once said:
“We cannot claim to have reached anywhere near to where a society should be in terms of practical equality of the disabled and those who are vulnerable. We continue to try. We realise that legislation and regulations are not sufficient or the end of the long walk to equality and non-discrimination.”
True education means, we must raise awareness, increase consciousness, and eradicate stigmatisation - these are key elements in achieving non-discrimination against the disabled in practice and in their everyday lives. This would require a radically transformed attitude amongst all teachers in how they deal with the diversity in their classrooms and schools. We dare not fail.
I thank you.