Principals of Special and Full-Service Schools
Members of Governing Bodies
Provincial and District Officials
Representatives of Disabled Peoples’ Organisations
It gives me great pleasure to address you on the occasion of the SANASE Annual General Meeting and Conference.
I bring to you the warm wishes of the longest serving Minister of Basic Education, Mama Angie Motshekga.
Programme Director, SANASE is a dependable ally of the Basic Education. We salute you for the work you continue to do in this sector that look after the interest and needs of the most vulnerable members of our society. You hard work, tenacity and wise counsel is commendable.
In fact you are helping our country to fulfil its international obligations.
It is significant that the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes explicit references to disability.
The issue of disability features in a number of Sustainable Development Goals, ranging from education to social, political and economic inclusion.
As a signatory to the United Nations 2030 Agenda, South Africa is committed to achieving these goals.
A significant recent development on the continent was the adoption by the African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government Summit in January 2018 of the Africa Disability Protocol.
The Protocol provides a legal instrument ‘to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by all persons with disabilities, and to ensure respect for their inherent dignity.’
Programme Director, this conference occurs on the year when our country celebrates 25 years of democracy.
His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa described this epoch as the year, when as a diverse people and as a united nation, we will celebrate one of the greatest of human achievements.
The theme of this conference is, ‘empowering persons with disabilities to ensure Inclusion, Access and Equity.’
Of course our Constitution which turned 23 years this year is predicated on the notion of social justice and righting the wrongs of the past.
Thus, the theme fortifies our belief that as a society we must move with the requisite speed and fulfil the promise of our Constitution that of non-discrimination and equality for all our people especially persons with disabilities.
We also meet a few months after the recent peaceful, free and fair provincial and national elections. We have since constituted the 6th Democratic Administration to take our country to the Promised Land.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has given all of us seven priorities to focus on so that we can get our economy and country firing on all cylinders yet again.
These priorities are: economic transformation and jobs; education, skills revolution and health; social wage, spatial development, human settlements and local government; social cohesion and safe communities, a better Africa and world and a capable developmental state and social compact.
President Ramaphosa in his June, 2019 State of the Nation (SONA) address directed that all our learners must be able to read for meaning by their tenth birthday as His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.
As a department, we have resolved that issue of reading shall permeate all that we do as a sector.
In our recent (2019) Basic Education Lekgotla, we also resolved amongst others to continue to strengthen the foundations of learning, particularly in the early grades.
We correctly said that Reading and Mathematics are to become our apex priorities
In this regard, for the 2019/20 financial year Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) –has been allocated R13 million, which has been increased by 18.2% from 2018/19 financial year.
Early Grade Reading Programme consists of an integrated package of lesson plans, additional reading materials and professional support to Foundation Phase teachers.
At a national level, we launched the National Reading Coalition under the aegis of the National Education Collaboration Trust to turbocharge the reading revolution in our country.
The President further made a bold announcement that we are hell-bent in to narrowing the digital divide. He said over the next six years, we will provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device.
We have resolved as a sector that our priority for the rollout of the digital workbooks will be multi-grade schools, rural schools and schools for leaners with special educational needs.
We are committed to ensure that the interests of learners with disabilities are effectively mainstreamed across all our schools. We are serious when we say no child must be left behind.
One of the eleven priorities of the Basic Education is to increase the safety-net through pro-poor policies to cover learners who are deserving in programmes, such as ECD and Learners with Special Education Needs (LSEN).
In his recent response to the debate on the February State of the Nation Address, President Ramaphosa said the government’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) for the years 2020-2025 should mainstream the empowerment and support to people with disabilities across all government departments and programmes.
As a sector we take the President marching orders very seriously. We are determined to improve the learning experience of learners with profound intellectual disability.
Through the grant set aside for this purpose, namely the Conditional Grant on Learners with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability (LSPID), we will monitor and improve the capacity of officials, teachers, care workers and centre managers to implement the repackaged learning programme.
At the same time, we will be streamlining the management in selected schools, particularly targeted special and full-service schools, including human resource provisioning specific to Inclusive Education.
Through this programme alone over 6000 learners with profound intellectual disability will be supported in the 2019/20 Financial Year.
The 2017 School Monitoring Survey shows that 78% of schools nationally complied with the set standard of having at least one educator who has received training or has a requisite expertise in the area of Special Education Needs (LSEN).
Through the institutionalisation of the Policy on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) to date we have reached 95 089 educators and 4 999 officials.
These educators are essential in the screening, identification, assessment and support of learners experiencing barriers to learning.
This is not enough. Plans are afoot to remedy the situation.
Programme Director, I am happy to announce that we have developed, printed and distributed Braille workbooks for Grades 1 to 9 in Mathematics as well as Toolkits in all 11 languages.
More than 351 Grade 1- 12 textbooks have been adapted into Braille. As part of our ongoing support to our learners with special educational needs, we have provided numerous concessions to the National Senior Certificate (NSC) candidates in need of assistance.
In monetary terms workbooks, including Braille workbooks for visually impaired learners, have been allocated R1.2 billion, an increase of 3.8% from last year’s allocation.
Our flagship National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination is now available in the South African Sign Language.
Programme Director, we must emphasise the importance of collaboration. We are pleased that the Presidential Working Group on Disability has been revived.
President Ramaphosa has made a clarion call for all government departments to ensure that the interests and rights of people with disabilities are effectively mainstreamed across all departments.
It is therefore incumbent upon us working with you to ensure that learners with Special Educational Needs and disabled ones are not left behind as we prepare our young people for the jobs of the future.
We are introducing subjects like coding and data analytics at a primary school level. Perhaps, for every new pilot programme of new subjects, a certain number must be reserved for learners with disabilities.
Send me to the Minister and President to lobby for this initiative.
In conclusion, I must be the first one to say challenges in this category of leaners abound. We must work without ceasing to bring this category of learners into the mainstream of basic education. Working together with you, let’s build a South Africa of our dreams.
I thank you.