Head of Department, Dr EV Nzama
SANASE National Executive Members;
- (President), Mr Martin Pillay
- (Deputy President), Mr Lindela Memane
- (Secretary) Ms Coocky Mehale
- (Deputy Secretary); Mr Sipho Nkosi
- and (Treasurer), Mr Kishore Hira
Provincial and District Officials;
Principals of Special and Full-Service Schools;
Members of School Governing Bodies;
Representatives of Disabled Peoples’ Organisations;
We meet this tonight a few days after we joined hands to celebrate and commemorate the historic match led by women to our capital in the struggle against an unjust system. Our department also took a moment on Wednesday to call on all women at BDE to dialogue under the theme; opportunity to share their successes and challenges with a view to finding sustainable solutions to the identified challenges.
It gives me great pleasure therefore to address you on the occasion of the SANASE Annual General Meeting and Conference under the theme ‘empowering persons with disabilities to ensure Inclusion, Access and Equity.’
This theme reinforces 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.
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. Your hard work, tenacity and wise counsel is commendable.
Let me also make announcement about the developments that are underway within early childhood development provide numerous opportunities for strengthening our initiatives. This we will achieve through collaborations with our sister government departments, especially the Departments of Health and Social Development, and other key partners and players.
We will strengthen the institutionalisation of the screening, identification, assessment and support processes, with a specific focus to the early years. This will obviously require us to work as a collective to enhance the provisioning of this government service.
We have acknowledged the shortage in special school and we are the increasing the number of public ordinary schools that had been designated as full-service schools has raised new challenges for the system. For instance, significant work has to be done to capacitate some designated full-service schools to function effectively.
This will require provincial education departments to assess the situation at the designated schools to establish the extent of resourcing, conversion and orientation required; developing a business plan, containing a roadmap of what needs to be done by who and by when to ensure designated schools are functional, which must include outreach services and linking the school with a special school as resource centre, where possible; develop and implement a support programme for the designated schools in line with the different services that the schools are expected to provide; and implement monitoring and support services to ensure that the schools function as full-service schools.
These expectations have already been communicated to provincial education departments for appropriate action.
In this respect, the Department of Basic Education is developing standard operating procedures to strengthen guidance to provinces regarding the designation, conversion and resourcing of full-service schools.
This will assist the sector to strengthen guidance and oversight by setting clear procedures to ensure adequate support is provided to schools. I believe that this will go a long way in strengthening the systems and processes to improve our efforts to ensure inclusion, access and equity in basic education.
We further note the challenges as they relate to the assessments and long waiting lists for this very critical aspect in the system.
An inclusive, just and fair society can only be achieved through collective, integrated action. Inclusive education is not a one-person show; it comes about as a result of collaborative work and requires a ‘we are in this together’ attitude.
For inclusive education to work, individuals and organisations must come together and contribute their expertise for the benefit of a shared objective, project, or mission. This implies that, in order for inclusion to work, players need to find their place in the chain, learn how to collaborate, understand how to shape their actions and movements so that they produce what is good for all of us.
The President in his June, 2019 State of the Nation Address (SONA) directed that all our learners must be able to read for meaning by their tenth birthday.
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.
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 support 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). This move will see enable us to deal with the issues of simulations centres for learners with Profound Intellectual Disability.
In his recent response to the debate on the February SONA, 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.
Through the grant set aside for this purpose, namely the Conditional Grant on Learners with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability (LSPID) introduced in the 2017/2018 financial year, 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 learners with profound intellectual disability will be further 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.
I well aware that most provinces only have Primary Schools that support special needs learners, however, 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.
Our flagship National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination is now available in the South African Sign Language.
We must emphasise the importance of collaboration. We are pleased that the Presidential Working Group on Disability has been revived which will 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 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.
In conclusion, I must be the first one to say challenges in this category of leaners abound. We must work without stopping to bring this category of learners into the mainstream of basic education. Working together with sister departments, communities’ partners and you. Let’s build a South Africa of our dreams.