23 January 2018

South Africa: Back to School - but Not If You Have a Disability

Last Wednesday saw thousands of children across South Africa returning to school, with some starting for the first time. Pictures of learners catching up with friends, being assigned teachers and attending their first assemblies filled news feeds. While there were some tears, particularly for those beginning their school careers, the sentiment was an overwhelmingly positive one. The same could not be said for 11-year-old Thabang.

Thabang*, an 11-year-old learner with disabilities, is currently not in school. Thabang's parents have been engaged in a five-year battle to place him in a school for learners with special needs.

Initially, the special schools that Thabang's parents applied at ignored their applications. Finally, in 2015, at the age of 10, he was placed into Grade R at a special school in North West. After a year of attendance, the school claimed that they were unable to cater to his particular disabilities, and that he should apply at schools that could. Countless emails to the North West Department of Education, which is the department located in the province in which the family lives, were ignored. Eventually and fortuitously, their attempts led to a referral to the Centre for Child Law, which now...

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