Pretoria- Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says her department has committed to take the Inclusive and Special Needs Education agenda forward with more vigour.
Speaking at the 2016 Light it up Blue for Autism Awareness function held in Durban on Sunday, the Minister said the estimated number of children of school-going age with disabilities who are not in school may be as high as 155 675.
Amongst other challenges she highlighted, Minister Motshekga said the lack of specialised competencies amongst educators teaching at special schools is one of the concerns.
“In response, the department is collaborating with the Department of Higher Education and Training, with the support of the European Union, to ensure that training of teachers in these areas of specialisation, is strengthened through the introduction of Advanced Diplomas in Education of Learners with Autism, Visual Impairment, Intellectual disability and those who are Deaf.
“Every province also has a substantial budget to ensure that teachers receive continued professional development that will ensure that they are able to identify barriers to learning and developmental delays from a very early age, and provide the necessary interventions and support,” said the Minister.
She said the department’s commitment to the cause of providing quality education for all is supported at the highest level of government.
She reiterated President Jacob Zuma’s words on government’s commitment to ensure that all children with disabilities, who are currently out of school, will have the opportunity to attend schools in their neighbourhoods by 2021 and receive the necessary support.
“We expect of all special and ordinary schools to operate within a rights-based model of disability which respects the dignity, rights, wishes and autonomy of their learners, giving them a voice in all decisions that affect their lives,” she said.
The Minister said inclusion of children with disabilities starts in the home and in the family.
“Families of children with complex disabilities such as autism need to be embraced and supported in their communities.
“These families, especially the mothers, should never have to fend for themselves and for their children without the support of the neighbours and the community in which they live,” said the Minister.