DBE response to SAHRC on Inclusive Education, Persons with Disabilities, Mental Health: with Deputy Minister

Basic Education

18 February 2020
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) gave a status report on processing the recommendations of the two 2019 SAHRC Reports. One of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) recommendations in its Special Schools report was that DBE must produce a report showing what has been done to demonstrate its commitment to an inclusive education system that includes:
- Past Steps Demonstrating Commitment To An Inclusive Education System
- Giving Effect to Section 24 of UN Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities
- Why North West Residential Special Schools Do Not Constitute ‘Institutionalisation’ of Children With Disabilities
- Implementation Matrix in the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

On the SAHRC Report on the State of Mental Health in South Africa, it reported on:
- Stigma Reduction and Awareness Raising
- National Strategy on Learner Attainment (NSLA)
- Study on the Implementation of Mental Health Programming
- Draft Policy on Education for Children with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability

The Committee heard that DBE will be proactive with programmes to cater for all learners. One example to address shortcomings was that DBE has issued a circular to guide provincial education departments (PEDs) as they undertake the following remedial actions:
• assessing the situation at the designated schools to establish the extent of resourcing, conversion and orientation required;
• developing a business plan, containing a roadmap of what needs to be done by whom and by when to ensure the functionality of designated schools. This must include outreach services and linking the school with a special school as resource centre, where possible.

The Chairperson said the Committee remains concerned about the minimal or lack of scholar transport provided to special schools. Concerns were also raised about the training of support staff at hostels and the number of staff available at special schools. Other concerns included:
- which of the SAHRC deadlines had DBE addressed
- progress on the norms and standards noted in the report
- community service therapists to do a year of community service be allocated to these schools
- support teams visit special needs centres for only 6-10 hours per term which is inadequate
- why special schools were not evenly distributed in the provinces
- full service school teachers were frustrated with lack of support and lacked confidence
- it was embarrassing to see that the Department does not have the actual number of how many learners were disabled and of school-attending age.
- infrastructure grant needed for special schools.
- DBE should steer away from guidelines as much as possible and adopt policies.
- when would the progress report on North West be presented
- asked how the waiting lists for enrolment had been addressed.
It was suggested that the Committee create a target for what they would like to see achieved learners with disabilities within the Sixth Parliament.

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted that the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) had written a report and provided recommendations about concerns about the health and safety at schools for learners with special needs after a learner with a hearing disability had died and others were injured in a fire at a school in North West and another incident where learner at a school for blind children in North West had died.  The SAHRC recommendations in the report were directed at the Department of Basic Education (DBE).

The Chairperson mentioned that in 2016 National Treasury had awarded the Department a conditional grant of R477 million over the 2017-2020 period for Children with Severe and Profound Intellectual Disability (CSPID) to address some of these challenges. She handed over to the Deputy Minister.

Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Dr Reginah Mhaule, said that the Department would present a response to the SAHRC Report as well report on progress in the implementation of the recommendations. The DBE prepared report included the Department of Health, since DBE was also working with them.  She handed over to Dr Maboya to take the Committee through the presentation.

Dr Mamiki Maboya, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring, explained there were two sets of recommendations - one pertaining to DBE and the other to North-West in particular - emanating from the national investigation that was conducted by SAHRC. She asked Mr Jabulani Ngcobo, Acting Director: Inclusive Education to continue.

DBE status report on processing SAHRC Report recommendations
Mr Jabulani Ngcobo, Acting Director: Inclusive Education, said that SAHRC had provided DBE with a framework to follow in its response to the SAHRC recommendations:
A) DBE had to reflect on the steps which it had taken to build an inclusive education and training system
B) DBE to reflect on the structural changes that it had instituted to give effect to Section 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD)
C) DBE comment on North West special schools characterised as "institutions" in terms of Section 24  
D) how DBE had implemented the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He said that DBE had responded in terms of its constitutional obligations.

A) Past Steps Demonstrating Commitment To An Inclusive Education System

• Access to the Education for Learners with Disabilities 2002-2019
The slide provided a comparison of numbers of learners who have had access to education as well as providing a reflection on the status of learners and schools in 2002. In 2002 there were 495 schools for children with special needs while in 2019 there were 501 schools for children with special needs, including 54 independent schools.

• Enrolment of Learners in Special Schools per Provinces, 2019
In 2002 there were 64 000 learners in special schools and by the end of 2019, 93 699 children were recorded at special schools. The number of learners with special needs recorded in public ordinary schools which were 77 000 in 2002 and 121 000 in 2019. There had been a huge increase in the number of learners with disabilities in public ordinary schools.

In 2002 DBE had not recorded any learners with severe to profound disabilities in Special Care Centres but in 2019, DBE recorded 11 288 children in Special Care Centres. Part the reason for this was the conditional grant on Access to Education for Learners with Severe to Profound Disabilities.

• Distribution of Special Schools
The trend was that the more jobs in an area, the higher the concentration of special schools would be in that area. School distribution also raised the question of access which is something DBE might have to focus on. Provinces were aware of the issue and had promised to work with DBE on this.

One of the recommendations of the Education White Paper was that special schools must be converted to special schools as resource centres and currently there were 108 of such schools. There were currently 26 385 learners accommodated in school hostels and 179 special schools with hostels out of 447 schools.

• Public Special Schools Funding 2019/20
By the end of 2019, nationally DBE had spent about 77.6% of the budget. In Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mpumalanga the expenditure was higher than had been expected.

• Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS)
The Screening, Identification and Assessment policy was promulgated in 2014 and was being implemented. What was interesting was the number of officials and teachers who had been trained - with  5 821 officials trained. This was a work in progress to ensure that there was a strong mechanism for early identification and early intervention so barriers to learning were picked up quickly.

Mr Ngcobo spoke about the developments in the Early Childhood Development (ECD) space, he said that there was a need to institutionalise SIAS from as early as zero to six years. The focus on early childhood development was to provide the intellectual, physical and emotional foundation for all future investments.

• Teachers as Agents of Change
When the White Paper was promulgated there was a need to go back to specialist training on specific disabilities. Teachers were important for the successful implementation of Inclusive Education and thus DBE had collaborated with the University of South Africa (UNISA), the British Council and the Media and Education Trust (Africa) to come up with an intervention called Teaching for All. The intervention had sought to answer the question of how a teacher development programme of inclusion could be built. The aim of the intervention was to strengthen the capacity of pre-service and in-service training of teachers to ensure they were able to function in the inclusive education system. For the pre-service and in-service training, DBE was working with universities to ensure that at undergraduate level, teachers were prepared properly. The deliverables of the collaboration were (1) a research report which has already been released (2) the 24-credit NQF level 6 module with materials for B-Ed and PGCE (3) the possibility of short courses to continue teacher development. The highlight was that the tri-partite collaboration had been nominated for a prestigious award.

While there were teachers being trained in braille and sign-language, DBE had tended to move away from disability-specific programmes to develop inclusive projects. The braille, autism and South African Sign Language (SASL) projects were trying to address the training of teachers in those disability-specific areas. He also said that there were no other areas which were presenting barriers and which would subject learners to difficulties such as mental health which teachers were being trained around.

• Designation, Conversion and Resourcing of Full-Service Schools
The White Paper states that around 500 schools would be designated as full-service schools in 30 districts. The DBE was currently sitting with 848 ordinary schools which was a slight increase. Ensuring that full-service school function had not been without challenges. The Auditor-General (AG) had made findings about the functionality of full-service schools. The DBE’s response was to issue a circular where DBE guided provinces on what should be done to ensure that the AG’s recommendations for full-service schools were implemented. DBE had a structure called an Inter-provincial Meeting on Inclusive Education which was held four times per year and in which the implementation of the circular was made a steady item to monitor and support provinces in the implementation of the AG recommendations.

• LSPID Allocations to Provinces (see document)

• Access to Education for Learners with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability (LSPID)
The conditional grant to provinces was standing at R220.7 million out of the total R477 million grant awarded to DBE by National Treasury. In addition to the conditional grant, an administrative grant of about R3 million was also allocated at national level.

• Transversal Itinerant Outreach Team Members & Grant Members and Grant Managers per Province
There were challenges in special care centres. Thus far, 185 outreach team members had been appointed and that DBE had been experiencing a high dropout rate. DBE had reached an agreement with National Treasury to start making these posts permanent and some provinces have already done it while others are still in the process.

Treasury had given a go-ahead and said that the conditional grant would be converted into an equitable share at the end of the project. DBE had appointed managers in each of the provinces and there were vacancies in the Free State and Mpumalanga although Mpumalanga had already advertised positions and was busy with the processes of appointing while Free State was working on unblocking the blockages in the appointment process.

There was a huge impact in terms of support services and although DBE had not yet reached the number of people it had been aiming to reach, with the agreement which had been made it was going to be much easier to attract people into these posts.

The DBE had decided that it would be important to start working with schools from the beginning thus DBE had opted to start working with 79 ordinary public schools. Most of these schools were full-service schools that DBE thought were reasonably ready to take some learners.

• Access to Education for Learners with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability
Of the 11 288 known learners with disabilities, DBE had discovered 3 538 without ID documentation. DBE had managed to capture the data of how many special care centres they had, the number of caregivers and learners were in these special care centres when previously they did not have this data.

DBE had been working with Free State to try and unblock the challenges it had. In terms of the Department’s rights and responsibilities according to Division of Revenue Act (DORA), DBE had withheld the last charge of the conditional grant to Free State and DBE was on the verge of withholding the grant for a second time but felt the need to see how the blockages could be unblocked. A high level meeting was held with Free State and they were hopeful that the blockages with Free State would be resolved soon.

One of the challenges in the court order was DBE had to transfer money into special care centres but legally DBE did not have the mechanism to do so. The Department was working on finding ways to resolve this and had in some instances gone as far as providing the required materials in some special care centres. The Department had recruited specialised human resources, procured tools of trade and established a database to ensure that the necessary resources do reach the special care centres. Another issue DBE had run into at times was even if DBE provided the centres with the resources there were no places to store them and as a result DBE had decided to include in the grant framework for the following year storage facilities to ensure that there can be safekeeping of the resources given to special care centres.

DBE had also picked up that the allocation of Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM) was not per learner and thus DBE had directed that each learner has the necessary materials.

Placement of learners had been complicated as the age range of learners differed significantly. To address this there was a need for intergovernmental collaboration so learners with special needs could enjoy their right to basic education. So far DBE had placed 42 children, mostly from Gauteng, Kwa Zulu Natal and the Western Cape as placement had to be coupled with support of those learners. As part of the implementation process, the Department had had a roundtable which had translated into four work areas that DBE had appointed task teams to look at these recommendations and ensure they were implemented. The task teams had produced four plans consolidated into one plan which would be looked at in a March forum.

• Schools Piloting CAPS & NCS Grade R-5 for Learners with Severe Intellectual Disability (SID)
A curriculum was being piloted for learners with severe to profound disabilities in grade R-6. The curriculum was a skill based one with the aim of trying to deal with access for those learners. Teachers were excited about the curriculum although there were still some challenges with subject advisors for some of the subjects. DBE was working with provinces as well as training teachers to ensure teachers were able to deliver the curriculum. The good thing about this curriculum was that teachers were very involved in the writing up of the curriculum and there was a significant amount of expertise at schools.

• Provision of ICTs and Other Assistive Technologies in Special Schools
Telecommunication companies had to connect 5 250 schools over five years. As part of the initiative, they would be connecting 447 special schools with basic technologies and connectivity suited for special schools.

• South African Sign Language
DBE had entered into the third cohort this year in South African Sign Language implementation at FET level.

• Provisioning for Learners with Visual Impairments (see document)

• Learner Transport in Special Schools
Different provinces were using different prototypes for the management of scholar transport – in some provinces scholar transport was managed by DBE and in others by the Department of Transport. This system had its unique set of challenges. There might be a need for a decision to be taken as to which department would shoulder all the responsibility.

• Management of Learner Transport (see document)

• Key Challenges to Learner Transport (see document)

B) Giving Effect to Section 24 of UN Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD)
The institutional arrangements are:
- Education White Paper 6 (2001) outlines what an inclusive education and training system is, and how DBE intends to build it.
- Strengthening of the District-based Support Teams (DBSTs) and School-based Support Teams (SBSTs) to support schools has been one of the key strengths in the implementation of inclusive education. This initiative was a work in progress since, even at district level, some of the supporters were functional while others were not. DBE was working with district supporters to ensure they were functional since these supporters were vital.
- The introduction of outreach services, delivered on a mobile basis from the central support node of the DBST, Special School Resource Centre and full-service schools intends to ensure that all learners can access support in public ordinary schools, reducing the need for referral to special schools. DBE was trying to come up with a model to ensure that there was support. In some instances where there was dire need DBE had utilised resources and specialists that they had in the LSPID without interfering with the recommendations of the court order.

C) Why North West Residential Special Schools Do Not Constitute ‘Segregation’ / ‘Institutionalisation’ of Children With Disabilities
Mr Ngcobo spoke about the statement that characterised North West schools as institutions like locked up facilities with no access to freedom. In the SAHRC findings, the schools investigated were characterised as institutions in terms of Article 24. Mr Ngcobo explained that Article 24 went beyond infrastructure, he quoted Article 24 and said that for North West special schools to be characterised as institutions, DBE believed that all those items mentioned in Article 24 had to be missing. DBE acknowledged that there were challenges in North West special schools but there was work that had been done in other areas of the Article.

D) Implementation Matrix in the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (WPRPD)
The Implementation Matrix is a document that tries to mainstream the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities across government departments. DBE has these responsibilities:

• Integration of Disability Rights Awareness Discourse in the Curriculum
One of the responsibilities that DBE had was to ensure that the curriculum was based on the principles of human rights, inclusivity and social and environmental justice. These were the founding values of the CAPS curriculum and sensitive to issues of diversity. There was training to ensure that teachers were able to deliver the curriculum to students adequately.

• Information for Parents and Caregivers of Children with Disabilities
There was a large number of learners which were outside of the schooling system which DBE had to ensure had access to public schools for learners with disabilities. The conditional grant was assisting but DBE had also collaborated with an organisation called Parents for Children with Special Needs which has been tracking children with special needs who were out of school and they were communicating this information to the Department. DBE had also extended invitations to other organisations on the ground to help with this.

• Access to ECD for Children with Disabilities
This was a work in progress and he explained that it was a part of the package of ensuring that there were quality ECD services. From an inclusive education point of view, DBE’s next step was to start training on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) - something which was already happening in some provinces - to ensure that practitioners had some understanding of SIAS.

• Disability Specific Intervention and Support Services
DBE had already developed a learning programme for children with disabilities, those who had had no previous exposure to education, the development of the CAPS curriculum and the conversion of ordinary schools into special centres. The Department was trying to deal with the question of the waiting list and was working from the point that the waiting list is illegal.

DBE had characterised the waiting list into two categories: 1) learners who were waiting for placement at a school but were already receiving some form of support and 2) learners who were outside of the system and were not receiving any form of support. Provinces were reporting in terms of those guidelines. To ensure that DBE did away with the waiting list, it had been converting ordinary schools which had been closed into special schools. DBE had also been working with other departments to appoint social workers into special schools or to bring in psychologists a few times a week to ensure that learners had access to those services.

• Compulsory Attendance for Children with Disabilities
A memorandum of understanding had been signed between DBE and the Department of Health to clear the backlog, since in some instances the backlog in the system had been caused by the assessment process of learners for placement. There was an online School Admissions Management Information (SAMI) system being used in the Western Cape to track learners who had been admitted into special schools for DBE to be able to account for these learners. 

DBE believed that every learner mattered and it was committed to building an inclusive education system to  ensure that no learner will be left behind. The Department had made significant strides in trying to respond and process the recommendation of the SAHRC

SAHRC Report on the State of Mental Health in South Africa: DBE response
Mr Jabulani Ngcobo, Acting Director: Inclusive Education, noted the SAHRC recommendations to the DBE:
1) Stigma reduction and awareness raising amongst educators
2) Reflecting on the national strategy of learner attainment
3) Commissioning a study on the integration of the Integrated Schools Programme for mental health
4) Reporting on progress on the draft policy on the Provision of Quality Education and Support to Children with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability.

SAHRC recommendations spoke to DBE’s constitutional obligation in terms of Section 29 to ensure the right to basic education. DBE has started to work as soon as the report was released to ensure that the recommendations of the Commission would be processed.

Reflecting on the Recommendations of the SAHRC it had been recommended that:
i. DBE works with the Department of Health to formulate a plan for the introduction of stigma reduction in schools as well as to increase health services through formal referral pathways accessible to educators. The plan had to indicate: what policies would be implemented to ensure that schools were safe and supportive environments; how to improve the quality of relationship between teachers and learners; and how detection rates would be improved and referrals implemented in the event that a learner appears to require mental health support or services. all of this had to be done within a 12-month period.

ii. In conjunction with the Department of Health, DBE had to formulate a plan for introducing consistent mental health awareness raising efforts aimed at educators. The plan should indicate how educators will: provide accurate information about mental health conditions; promote mental health; assist learners to identify mental health conditions and obtain the necessary assistance; and assist learners to build skills that promote mental health and prevent suicide. The timeframe for the recommendation was 12-months.

iii. DBE had to develop a report detailing progress in achieving the National Strategy on Learner Attainment’s (NSLA’s) goal of provision of supports for learners with disabilities within a 12-month period.

iv. In consultation with the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development (DSD), DBE had to commission a study on the implementation of the Integrated Schools Health Programme (ISHP) mental health programming, paying specific attention to the advancement of the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and barriers to implementation. The timeframe for this recommendation was 24 months.

v. DBE had to advise the Commission on the progress of the Draft Policy for the Provision of Quality Education and Support to Children with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability. The timeframe for this recommendation was 3 months.

Processing the SAHRC Recommendations

1. Stigma Reduction and Awareness Raising

National Treasury had awarded DBE the Conditional Grant of R477 million over the period 2017-2020. Part of the strategic goal of the Conditional Grant was to ensure that learners with severe to profound intellectual disability access quality public-funded education and support. As part of the implementation, DBE had collaborated with DSD, the Department of Health and the Department of Transport. In the spirit of the Court order of 2010 on access to education for children with severe to profound intellectual disability, the work of the departments had to ensure the delivery of efficient government services. As part of this collaboration, a decision was taken to incorporate in the plans the following:
- Introduction of stigma reduction programme in schools and increasing access to health services; and
- Mental health awareness raising efforts aimed at educators. DBE has also identified a need to improve the skills of Learning Support Agents (LSAs) on providing psychosocial support to learners.

DBE had developed a guide for LSAs across the country. The guide clarifies what Psychosocial Support is about and how LSAs, school management teams (SMTs) and school governing bodies (SGBs) must go about creating a healthy school environment to prevent psychosocial problems and address problems early.

Training was already being conducted for LSA and for schools in the North West (NW) and Northern Cape (NC) through various existing structures. These provinces had been chosen specifically because 1) in the Northern Cape there was a high incidence of foetal alcoholic syndrome which results in many psychosocial issues and 2) the SAHRC had produced a report on the North West and some of the issues which had been raised in the report were psychosocial. Eventually training would take place in all the provinces.

Mr Ngcobo added that provinces such as Gauteng and KZN had begun training teachers on psychosocial support within the context of training in specialised areas.

2. National Strategy on Learner Attainment (NSLA)
DBE was working on strengthening its NSLA. This overarching integrated framework manages all indicators that contribute to school functionality and is a reporting tool on provincial, district and school programmes and activities to improve overall learner performance in line with Action Plan to 2019-Towards Schooling 2030. The NSLA also provided a mechanism to enhance efficiency and accountability in schools, districts and provinces to improve the quality of education.

NSLA had nine pillars. One of these pillars DBE had to report to the SAHRC on – the implementation of the Education White Paper 6 on Building an Inclusive Education and Training System. Through this pillar, the sector would be able to collect the following types of data:

1) the number of learners, including learners with disabilities, identified and supported by  School-Based Support Teams (SBSTs);  2) the activities undertaken to strengthen and improve the functionality of District-Based Support Teams (DBST) and SBSTs; 3) the designation, conversion and resourcing of full-service schools in terms of Circular S4 of 2019; 4) the implementation of the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) Grade R-6 for Learners with Severe Intellectual Disability (SID); 5)the implementation of the Learning Programme for Learners with Profound Intellectual Disability (LPID) in special schools and special care centres; 6) the number of out-of-school children in waiting lists, disaggregated by age, gender and disability; and 7) the number of children enrolled in public ordinary schools, stratified/disaggregated by gender, age and disability.

Tracking the number of learners enrolled in public ordinary schools was one of the United Nations requirements. This emanated from the need that a child had to be able to attend a school in their neighbourhood instead of having to attend special schools which were far away. As part of the implementation of the conditional grant on access to education for learners with severe to profound intellectual disability, DBE had to report on this indicator in its Annual Performance Plan (APP).  

3. Study on the Implementation of Mental Health Programming
The South Africa’s economic growth was continuing to stagnate and weaknesses in the world economy were likely to amplify DBE’S own shortcomings, which will require structural adjustments and reforms. In view of these economic challenges, the government was implementing a path to restore the public finances to a sustainable position. Like all government departments, DBE, Department of Health and DSD were affected by these changes and they would have to collaborate to source funding for the study from alternative sources (such as joint bid to National Treasury; funding from donors).

4. Draft Policy on Education for Children with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability
DBE had to provide progress on the finalisation of the Draft Policy on Education for Children with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability. The Draft Policy was tabled at the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) on 12 February 2018. The purpose of the policy was to provide guidance on the improvement of access for children with severe to profound intellectual disability. The draft policy was also developed as an immediate part of the Department’s response to the court order on access to education for the LSPID. 

In April 2019, DBE had sent the Draft Policy to the DBE Legal Services for comment and input to ensure that it is aligned to existing legislation and policies. It had identified inconsistencies with existing legislation, especially the Children’s Act and it was unclear how the policy will relate to existing policies, such as Education White Paper 6. 

If the Draft Policy would continue, it would necessitate that the Department develops a policy for every barrier to learning, including a type of disability, outlined in Education White Paper 6. As a result the Draft Policy was being taken through the internal processes and structures to determine the way forward. DBE believed that the Education White Paper 6 was sufficient to address these issues and if there were issues that DBE should have to consider for the Education White Paper 6.

Mr Ngcobo said that DBE knows that it has made significant progress but acknowledged that there were still challenges which remained, given the size of the backlog. This was something to be expected considering that the realisation of human rights is a complex endeavour that cannot be resolved overnight through simple solutions. 

Ms Van der Walt (DA) asked DBE to confirm if the report was a 2018 report.  If the report was about 2 years old, which of the deadlines had DBE addressed. She highlighted that the UN report included the integrated development plan (IDP) process of municipalities and asked for an explanation of what was happening there, what the relationship of these IDPs was with the report and whether this had been discussed with municipalities. She referred to the norms and standards referred in the report and asked for progress on that. She noted the reference made to therapists in the report and asked if DBE had gone to the Department of Health to ask if health science students required to do a year of community service could be allocated to the schools in need. 

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) said that the presentation was administratively heavy. The only way the Committee could assess how much progress DBE had made was to see in real time how it looked like on the ground, since there was a need to give services to the most vulnerable children. Advocacy groups were frustrated with the Department and said it was in violation of its mandate to protect special needs children. Some of the challenges highlighted by advocacy groups in the Western Cape were that special support teams visit special needs centres for only 6-10 hours per term - how was this adequate?

Ms Sukers asked if 30 outreach members were adequate for 3 000 children which was the situation in the Western Cape. She asked if prioritising the needs of children in special care centres was perhaps not more important than planning equipment toolkits for centres. She asked how DBE was collaborating with special teams to ensure that there was continuity of care especially when there were other issues impeding children from being in school. On the tracking of children who were not in school, she had not seen the tracking system and asked how the social grant system was being linked to caregivers to ensure that special needs children were being taken to school.

Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) asked why special schools and resource centres were not evenly distributed according to the number of special needs children in each province. The presentation was filled with theory which does not reflect the reality of schools nationally. She referred to slide 19 stating: "What literature suggests teachers lack, is confidence in their own competence and, to a certain extent, lack appropriate training opportunities". That literature was referring to scientifically proven research.  She suggested that there should be a programme to help teachers gain confidence.

Dr Thembekwayo asked if DBE collaborated with Home Affairs to ensure special needs children get IDs and how far it was on that project. She asked about the agreement DBE had had with the NGO for parents with special needs children and asked if the telephone number mentioned was accessible and would be attended to. She said if the grant manager of the Free State Outreach Team  had resigned in 2018, it was unacceptable that the vacancy was still not filled. DBE needed to find out ASAP when this would be filled.

Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC) referred to the R407 million conditional grant allocated to deal with learners with disabilities. He asked for details on the plan for how the money would be used. He referred to the slide 9 and asked about the performance of the 54 independent schools. He asked about the impact of the schools as they were not equally spread in the provinces. It was a sore sight to see a 12-year old child go to school for the first time - what was DBE doing to cap these incidents?

Ms N Marchesi (DA) said it was embarrassing to see that the Department does not have the actual number of how many learners were disabled and of school-attending age. She pointed out that there was no infrastructure grant to ensure that all disabled learners were placed at schools. What had prevented the DBE from getting the Social Department data in order to determine infrastructure requirements to ensure all disabled learners are placed at school? Ms Marchesi said that the grant in question was very small - what were provinces doing with their equitable share of the grant? How much had North West been allocated? She asked that the Committee create a target for what they would like to see achieved learners with disabilities within the Sixth Parliament.

Ms C King (DA) commented about the frustrated teachers. From what she had heard teachers saying, teachers were frustrated because classrooms were not fully equipped, people with degrees working at schools for children with disabilities were being paid at the level of a teacher’s aide. Funza Lushaka teachers were coming into schools for two years and then leaving because they were stressed due to the fact that they were not trained on how to deal with the learners with disabilities. She told the Department it was important for incoming teachers to be trained on how to deal with the situations which they would be experiencing at full-service public schools. Support staff, such as cleaners and drivers, were not equipped to deal with learners since there were not given training.

Ms King emphasized the importance of vetting everyone that comes into special schools. She raised drivers at special schools who woke very early to get children to school on time but were being paid from 8am until 3pm. She commented on the importance of ensuring that scholar transport was in good working condition. The first issue with scholar transport is that DBE did not have a universal function for scholar transport. On the point of Learner Support Agents (LSAs), the scholar assessments tended to be inaccurate. She pointed out that many of the items presented were not policy but instead guidelines. Guidelines meant that there was no onus for stakeholders to follow them. She urged DBE to steer away from guidelines as much as possible.

Ms King asked if DBE had ever done an audit at schools to see how many schools had the necessary code of conduct and transport policies in place to ensure that they operated correctly.

Mr E Siwela (ANC) pointed out the progress made by the Department. It was amiss to suggest that DBE should ensure that children with disabilities had IDs. It was the responsibility of parents and MPs working in the constituency to ensure children had these documents. He referred to the Committee oversight visit on scholar transportation. He asked how learners with special needs were transported to and from school and who carried the costs. He asked how effective the training programmes were in ensuring that teachers were able to teach competently. He referred to the point about converting a closed down school in the Eastern Cape into a school for learners with autism and asked what the position of other provinces was.

Ms N Adoons (ANC) had thought the presentation would be focused on the progress made in North West in the specific schools the SAHRC Report was based on. How much had DBE implemented within the stated 12 month period?  Parents and MPs wanted to see the Constitution being adhered to. She noted that the challenges faced by disabled learners were similar to those faced by ordinary children. She acknowledged the collaborations DBE had with various departments and asked it to zoom into the work that those departments were doing since it seemed as if DBE was the sole driver of the projects.

Ms N Shabalala (ANC) asked how the waiting lists for enrolment had been addressed. She raised the point that the schools were not evenly spread across provinces. This should be taken up with provinces to ensure that schools were better spread to accommodate the needs in the provinces.

Dr Maboya said that DBE had tried to emphasise throughout the presentation that there were many challenges DBE was facing with this subject. DBE, through the presentation, had tried to paint a picture of how far they had come in addressing the challenges they faced.

Dr Mboya clarified that the presentations were about how DBE had been responding to the SAHRC recommendations. DBE had present the reports which would be going to the SAHRC.

DBE was aware that it had not provided progress according to the SAHRC stipulated timelines. This is something DBE would build into the presentation going forward. The timelines DBE had were effective as of the release of the reports, which were March and August 2019.

Dr Mboya reiterated that DBE did have an interprovincial structure which brought together various government departments as well as the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). Within that structure there were various task teams which were following different issues. 

On the waiting list, Dr Mboya replied that DBE did have systems in place and most of the DBE data was data generated by the provinces. Where provinces were not reporting as they should, DBE had their own internal processes to ensure that the issues were brought to heads of departments. In the case of Free State, DBE had written to the HOD and she hopes that the data will be made available.

Dr Mboya replied that DBE had provided the data of learners who were in special schools. DBE had acknowledged that learners who had “severe to profound disabilities” were learners who had been out of the system for a long time. Most of these learners were in care centres and these care centres were not the responsibility of DBE.

Dr Mboya explained that it was only due to the grant which DBE had received that they were able to record how many of these children were in special care centres – which was something that had never been done before.

On the point of municipalities and their IDPs, Dr Mboya replied that DBE was working closely with COGTA to ensure that the Department was working with municipalities.

Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Dr Reginah Mhaule, thanked the SAHRC for the work that they have done. The Department did not necessarily have to respond to the SAHRC Reports. DBE only had to plan and be proactive and ensure that the Department programmes catered for all learners in South Africa. DBE had had a huge infrastructure backlog which had led to most of the grants for DBE addressing the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) which focused on provinces which did not have anything. The resources of government were always limited and back then the focus of DBE had been on building schools where there had been none. Rural-urban migration was making it hard for DBE to address the backlog problem because while schools were built in the rural areas, people would move to the cities which would result in a backlog created there. Migration to cities meant that there was less space for all types of social amenities.

The Deputy Minister appreciated the point by Ms Marchesi that DBE now had to initiate a grant for special schools. In allocating schools in terms of the learners in each province, some provinces were vast and therefore accessibility will remain a challenge.

The Deputy Minister acknowledged that guidelines were going to help DBE in the long term. There needed to be policies since it would be necessary for them to be implemented. DBE had policies for special needs children and DBE would come back to present these policies for feedback.

The Deputy Minister said that the Sixth Parliament encouraged collaboration. Thus the Department was moving to the District Development Model. She explained that previously most government resources were displaced due to departments not working together. The District Development Model was going to address these problems and would also allow the Department to see where there were no special schools. Special schools could not be built in the same way that ordinary schools were as children with disabilities had varying needs.

The Deputy Minister said that they accept the criticism on full-service schools and DBE needed to ensure that full-service schools catered for children with severe needs and that they are resourced. Teachers in full-service schools had been trained to deal with learners with disabilities.

The Deputy Minister agreed that support staff at special needs schools had to be trained to deal with the children. She would check with DBE if a policy for transport did not yet exist and if not she would ensure that it was fast tracked.

She said that DBE has had to compete with the Department of Health for professionals but since there was collaboration between the two departments now, they would no longer have to.

The Deputy Minister said that DBE would follow up on unfilled vacancies for grant managers in provinces.  She explained that the unequal numbers of special schools in different provinces was largely a historical legacy. Post-1994 the priority of DBE was to set up schools in different provinces and now DBE would be working on setting up a grant for special schools and work closely with COGTA to secure land to build schools in provinces.

The Deputy Minister said that the North West situation opened the eyes of the Department to the safety of children in special schools and other schools in general.

Ms van der Walt asked that Members be provided with a progress report on how far DBE was with implementing the SAHRC recommendations. 

The Deputy Minister reiterated that DBE planned on giving a briefing on the North West reports which respond to each SAHRC recommendation.

The Chairperson said that what the Committee was dealing with her social issues and naturally, not everyone would be satisfied with the way that they were being dealt with. The Committee had to acknowledge when things were being done and where there were challenges which the Department could solve, the Department had to solve them.

The Chairperson closed the meeting.


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