Early Childhood Development and Inclusive Education: briefing by the Department of Education

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


11 June 2002

Chairperson: Mr Kgware (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Early Childhood Development Powerpoint Presentation
Education White Paper 6 on Special Needs Education
Early Childhood Development Project Status
Briefing on White Paper 6

The presentations outlined the progress and plans to implement Education White Papers 5 and 6. Challenges included forming a comprehensive systems development and collaborating with other relevant organisations. The discussion was on matters of clarity especially on the language policy for the early childhood development programme.

Ms Samuels, Director General: Early Childhood Development, introduced her presentation by outlining the objectives and recommendations of the Education White Paper 5 which provide a framework for the accommodation and support of pupils during their Reception Year at age five turning six by 30 June of that year. She then gave a summary of the Early Childhood Development Status Report in which she listed concrete progress and plans to implement the Early Childhood Development Programme. She concluded her presentation by pointing at some challenges which included forming a comprehensive systems development and collaborating with other relevant organisations.

Dr Naicker, Director General: Inclusive Education, explained that his office was responsible for the implementation of the Education White Paper 6 on Special Needs Education, which tries to remove barriers to learning especially for disabled pupils. He explained that the implementation period would be twenty years with the first two years as short-term, the third to fifth years as medium-term and the sixth to twentieth year as a long-term time frame. He also gave a list of current progress and future plans. He emphasised that advocacy, support, teacher training and research were crucial in making the implementation successful.

A Member asked if it was wise to continue Early Childhood Development (ECD) sites in areas that were under-resourced or were operating without funding. Ms Samuels explained that there were inter-departmental initiatives to look into the issue. She also emphasised that ECD sites should be registered with provincial Departments of Education and that Reception Year educators should be registered with the South African Council of Educators. Educators without specialised qualification to teach Reception Year should undergo approved training programmes. She explained that there were minimum criteria for registration after which schools will get support from different government departments such as the departments of social development and education.

Ms Vilakazi (IFP) could not understand how special schools could be transformed into mainstream schools. Dr Naicker and Mr Hindle: Director General: General Education, explained that there would be no transformation of special schools but rather an establishment of resource centres and full service schools on a regional or cluster basis.

Mr Tolo (ANC) was very critical of the fact that only four languages (Sesotho, Sepedi, Xhosa and Zulu) would be used in media broadcast of education programmes for Reception Year. He argued that these four languages were developed compared to other under-developed South African languages. He also insisted that children at Reception Year could only speak their mother tongue. Ms Samuels explained that all languages will be used on Takalani Sesame television broadcast of the second season. The funding for radio broadcasts was limited and that was the reason for having only four provincial languages.

Mr Tolo (ANC) wanted to know the composition of the National Co-ordinating Committee for Inclusive Education (NCCIE). Dr Naicker explained that the NCCIE was composed of teacher unions, provincial officers and the Presidents Disability Desk.

Mr Van Niekerk (NNP) could not see the logic of making the budget for inclusive education programme without the audit of special schools been undertaken. Dr Naicker explained the budget was a provisional plan necessary for funding purposes.

Mr Raju (DP) wanted to know if the transformation of special school was research based. Dr Naicker explained that in 1996 the then Minister of Education Professor Bengu appointed a National Commission on Special Education Needs whose recommendations included integration of special schools.

Mr Raju (DP) commented that it seemed difficult to reconcile integration and the present legacy of segregation and inequality. Ms Samuels agreed with Mr Raju and said that it was a broad and an ongoing issue which was the responsibility of many Departments to look into.

Mr Van Niekerk (NNP) wanted to know the language policy on Early Childhood Development. Ms Samuels explained that they were using the National Language and Education policy, which promoted multi-lingualism and use of mother tongue for the first four years of schooling. She however, explained that at practical level it was different because the school governing bodies and parents decided on the language which would be used as the medium of instruction.

A Member asked the age at which children were admitted into Reception Year. Ms Samuels told her that it was age five years turning six years by end of June of that year.

The same Member asked if there were any mechanisms that would help parents of pupils with hearing disability to learn sign language. Dr Naicker said that there was no mechanism at the moment and agreed that it was an issue that needed attention.

Mr Van Niekerk (NNP) commented that even though the mother tongue was supposed to be used during the first four years of schooling, English was still used as a medium of instruction. Mr Hindle agreed with the observation and the fact that it was not acceptable. He added that there was need for public advocacy to popularise and implement that part of policy.

Ms Vilakazi (IFP) was critical of the fact that the school governing bodies could overrule the language and education policy. She argued that if that continues to happen it would pose learning barriers for black pupils in former Model C schools.

The meeting was adjourned.


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