Better access to schools for the disabled

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pretoria - All new schools being built by government should be accessible to children with disabilities, says Minister for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya.

Speaking at the UN's Third Conference of Parties on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in New York on Friday, the minister said this was a requirement of the new National School Infrastructure Norms.

South Africa is committed to ensuring that children with disabilities fully enjoy all human rights, including the right to education, on an equal basis with other children, she said.

The South African Schools Act recognises the right of children with disabilities to express their views on all matters affecting them, while also protecting their right to be represented in school governing bodies and learner representative councils.

"Children with disabilities also have a right to engage with education policy decisions affecting them," the minister told the conference.

Government is implementing inclusive educational policies on an incremental basis.

"The main aim of the programme is to introduce a number of systemic measures which would lay the foundation for a system wide implementation of the policy of inclusive education in South Africa," she added.

In piloting this policy, 30 mainstream schools in South Africa were selected to be converted unto full service schools to serve as a model of full inclusivity.

A further 34 special schools were selected to be upgraded and converted into resource centres to support mainstream schools, Mayende-Sibiya added.

"These key systemic measures to build a single, inclusive system are accompanied by a public advocacy campaign aimed at laying the foundation for a system wide implementation of the policy of Inclusive Education in South Africa," the minister added.

Mayende-Sibiya is the Vice President the Conference, and was chairing the Round-Table discussion on Inclusion and the Rights to Education.