As soon as democracy was established in South Africa, the provision of education for learners with disabilities in the country has become a part of its development. Everyone has the right to “a basic education, including basic adult education; and to further education, which the state through reasonable measures must make progressively available and accessible,” and the state may not discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including disability (Section 29, Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act No. 108 of 1996).
So, in 2001, the Department of Education has come up with a framework that would address the diverse needs of all learners who experience barriers to learning. It asserted that in order to make inclusive education a reality, there must be a conceptual shift regarding the provision of support for learners who experience barriers to learning.
This framework—the Universal Design for Learning (UDL)—has been based in the fields of cognitive science and neuroscience that stipulates how we learn through memory, language processing, perception, problem solving, and thinking. At its heart is the design of goals, methods, materials, and assessments that make it accessible to all students, with disabilities or none.
It came out good; the European Union has come to support the initiative of this country three years after. It placed South Africa on its “best footing,” chief education specialist Marie Schoeman opined in the article “Working Towards Inclusive Education in South Africa.”
“In general there is cohesion between these projects,” she added. “They look at all learners who are experiencing barriers to learning, and improve their chances for through-put, which is a big concern in South Africa, where only a little more than half the learner population which starts in Grade R finishes school because of poverty, neglect and learning difficulties.”
Every child has come to be supplied then with numeracy and literacy workbooks from day one in Grade R to the end of compulsory education in Grade 91. The books were printed on sustainable papers with toxin-free ink and available in all eleven of South Africa’s official languages—including braille and large print—for the price of less than a croissant each.
There has also been “full-service schools2,” one of which is the Isiziba Primary School located in Gauteng’s Ekhuruleni North District. Nonprofit organization Inclusive Education South Africa continues to support and promote positive models of schools and learning centers there.
The remaining problem is teacher necessity, which South Africa solved through its “Teaching and Learning Development (TLD) Sector Reform Program.” It developed a teacher education system in 2015 to assist early childhood development educators, primary school teachers, special needs teachers, technical and vocational education and training lecturers, community education and training lecturers, and the professional development of university academics.
“The education system will play a greater role in building an inclusive society, providing equal opportunities and helping all South Africans to realise their full potential, in particular those previously disadvantaged by apartheid policies, namely black people, women and people with disabilities.” ~ South African government’s 2009 National Development Plan
Video taken from the YouTube Channel of World of Inclusion
1This was carried out by printing companies Lebone Litho and Paarl Media, and delivery firm UTI, in 2012. This action resulted in 3,600 permanent jobs and 5,000 temporary ones.
2Full-service schools are those that welcome children with different educational needs.