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Speech at the 21st anniversary celebration of Mispah School for Learners with Severe Intellectual Disability, 17 September 2005, Minister Naledi Pando speeches


Speech by the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, MP, at the 21st anniversary celebration of Mispah School for Learners with Severe Intellectual Disability, Cape Town

17 September 2005

Principal and Parents
Members of the Elim Community
Representatives from the Moravian Church
Distinguished Guests

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this memorable occasion for the Elim community, your 21st anniversary.

I am very impressed with what this school has achieved over the years, not only in its commitment to teaching and learning but also in its fund-raising efforts to improve the school and hostel facilities.

In the Department we recognise that we need to make a special effort to cater for special needs.

Our objective is to strengthen special schools. Our objective is to create an environment that will promote teaching and learning. Our objective is to allow pupils with disabilities in disadvantaged communities to lead fulfilled lives. We are committed to doing more, and we are committed to putting our plan for special schools into place.

The plan involves:

  • Capital and material resources provisioning in selected schools to make conditions conducive to teaching and learning. This would also address the living conditions in the hostels;
  • Procuring material resources/assistive devices to enable learners with barriers to learning to access education;
  • Examining admission policies implemented in these schools to ensure that learners are in these schools are indeed supposed to be there;
  • Ensuring that disabled learners have access to transport to get to schools.

Our plan for special schools will also ensure that indirect beneficiaries, such as teachers and non-teaching staff and provincial education officials, will operate in conditions that are suitable for teaching and learning.

This community will know more than anyone else the role played by churches and missionary societies in establishing most special schools in the country. These remarkable institutions were founded on the principles of benevolence, care and protection.

But we have a new vision for people with disabilities, a new vision that governs our educational policies and practices.

Institutions that provide services to people with disabilities must be governed by the principles and values contained in the Constitution.

In the words of our President: “A society’s respect for human rights can be gauged by the status it accords to the most vulnerable members of society - disabled people, senior citizens and children”.

So even while we will strengthen special schools, our policy is that children with intellectual disability should attend local neighbourhood schools, our policy is that they should attend ordinary schools where they can benefit from educational opportunities that are available to all learners.

Ultimately, this should enable them to become more integrated in society and promote their chances of working in the open labour market.

For those learners who still attend special schools, the quality of their education should also ultimately be measured against the extent to which they are able to enter the world of work successfully.

Even for people with intellectual disability, work is the essence of life. It is what gives them an adult identity and a sense of self worth. To enable adults with intellectual disability to work and live independently in the community should be the ultimate goal of all special education.

It is for that reason that the Department of Education has determined that there will be only one national curriculum for all learners.

The curriculum is flexible enough to accommodate all learners, provided they receive the necessary support.

Draft guidelines for inclusive learning programmes have been developed by a national task team and are currently being field-tested in 30 special schools and 30 full-service schools.

Furthermore, a national project is currently being launched to train all special schools on the new curriculum. It has been found that many special school staff did not attend all provincial orientation sessions over the past three years.

Once all teachers make the principles of the new curriculum their own, they will understand how to adapt the lesson plans within each learning area to accommodate the abilities, learning styles and learning tempo of all learners, even those with intellectual disabilities.

We have to move beyond merely teaching children daily living skills and crafts. All children need to be exposed to reading and writing skills and the content of all eight learning areas.

Many teachers and parents are concerned about the policy of inclusive education.

We are mindful of these concerns and we are doing what we can to prevent unnecessary disruption to the lives of vulnerable children, while creating expanded access and educational opportunities.

In the course of this first stage of implementing the policy, we are running a national advocacy strategy through which we intend changing deeply entrenched views about all people who are different.

Through a national media strategy and series of visits to provinces, all teachers, managers and the public at large are being informed about the inclusive-education model.

We have developed and are field-testing a draft national strategy for screening, identification, assessment and support. The strategy will ensure a more appropriate approach to determining the real support needs of children.

This strategy recognises the central role parents and teachers play in designing support programmes for learners at their local neighbourhood schools.

We have recently also completed an audit of all special schools. We now face the challenge of repositioning these schools to perform a new role within an inclusive education and training system.

I must add here that special schools have an important role in the new system. Provinces are currently looking at those schools that have been disadvantaged, with a view to expanding and improving facilities to cope more adequately for children who require support as well as providing support and advice to other schools in the community.

I am sure that we are all aware of the magnitude of the task. I want to take this opportunity to invite all stakeholders to support us in this challenging task that lies ahead.

In closing, let me affirm that we believe that all children are our children. When we take decisions about children, we must be convinced that we are doing the right thing, especially when we make decisions about segregating pupils in special schools.

In some cases, it is important to provide specialist care, but the acceptance of all learners is a critical part of the values we have adopted to live by in our constitution.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 780

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