Inclusive Education Towards an Inclusive Society

Cathy Labuschagne

DA Western Cape spokesperson for Education

Our constitution is specifically clear when it states that “everyone has the right to a basic education”. I am pleased to learn that the constant pursuit of an inclusive education system in the Western Cape is not only inclusive in its outcomes but also inclusive of the opinions and specialist needed, informing policy. This follows presentations to the Standing Committee on Education in the Provincial Parliament of the Western Cape today, 8 May 2012. The presentations were made by both the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), as well as the Campaign to Promote the Right to Education of Children with Disabilities – the “R2E CWD” campaign.

In 2012, the Western Cape registered 19 461 learners with Special Education needs (ELSEN learners) across the province which is a notable increase from 2009, when the province only had 14 909 ELSEN learners.

As DA provincial spokesperson on Education, I am pleased that both the WCED and “R2E CWD” are determined to help ensure quality education for all in the Western Cape. The WCED’s focus according to the ‘Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support’ (SIAS) policy aims to ensure that the individual needs of all pupils are provided for effectively and efficiently through mainstream-, full service- and special needs schools. The continuous development of teachers through training, especially CAPS training with a prescribed focus on inclusion, will help ensure that our teachers are equipped to provide quality education to learners, especially where special needs can be addressed in the classroom.

The WCED unpacked its’ ’10 Point Plan’ focussed on improving inclusivity which among others will strengthen support at special schools and enhance special schools as a resource centres. The goals to provide for high support needs in areas where it did not previously existed, as well as to expand for categories of disabilities not previous realised, are welcomed.

Though I acknowledge the assurance provided by the WCED that the Western Cape is at the forefront of realising quality, inclusive education for all; I support the “R2E CWD” campaign in advocating that more can be done. I appreciate the campaign’s recommendations that education districts and circuits have a bigger part to play in defining the support they are able to give and communicating this message to their schools.

The challenges presented in their presentation highlights the need to tackle inclusive education as a transversal priority in the Western Cape. The challenges faced by learners with specific needs supersede provisions supplied solely by the WCED. ELSEN learners’ dependency on accessible transport as well as their need for access to specialised personnel, such as psychologists and social workers, should be provided for by better collaboration from other Departments.

The vision of inclusive education as a means to an end – that of the realisation of an inclusive society – necessitates all departments working better together to not only address the needs of the child once it reaches school-going age, but to address the needs of the entire society irrespective of age or ability.

I applaud the continuous advocating of the “R2E CWD” campaign and the work the WCED has done thus far.

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