The exclusion of children with visual impairment from early childhood development provisioning in KwaZulu-Natal.
There is global recognition of the significance of Early Childhood Development (ECD). South Africa’s commitment to ECD was evident in 2004 when the Office of the Premier declared ECD a national priority and directed municipalities to include ECD planning in their Integrated Development Plans. In 2005, the government published the National Integrated Plan (NIP) for ECD in South Africa: 2005 - 2010, further demonstrating the government’s commitment toward providing a solid foundation for the holistic development of children. The researcher noted however that despite these policy developments, there was still a gap in direct ECD services for children with visual impairments. The aim of this research study therefore was to determine the level of exclusion in the provisioning of ECD services for children with visual impairment by exploring the experiences of parents, service providers and foundation phase educators at special schools regarding ECD provisioning in KZN. The research was conducted using qualitative methodologies. Descriptive, thematic data was gathered through focus group discussions with Social Workers and semi-structured interviews with parents of children with visual impairment and foundation phase educators at schools for the blind. The findings yielded four central themes: insufficient information and support, service unavailability, inadequate specialist training and limited resources. These themes revealed that, despite ECD being declared a national priority, the exclusion of children with visual impairment from the government’s ECD provisioning was evident. The recommendations from this study primarily addressed the government revisiting its structures and policies to ensure the inclusion of children with visual impairment in ECD programmes and secondly to NGO service providers to promote awareness of available resources and support for parents of visually impaired children. Further research is necessary to expand on the findings of this study to include all provinces of South Africa, and develop, implement and evaluate the ECD protocol for children with visual impairment.