Exclusionary and inclusionary dynamics : narratives of girls with disabilities in a mainstream rural primary school.
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In South Africa, young rural girls living with disabilities are often prevented from having access to basic education or at best, are restricted to special education settings. Even with the advent of Inclusive Education and White Paper 6, where learners with disabilities are encouraged to attend mainstream schools as far as possible, the concern remains that persisting negative and prejudicial perceptions of disability, counterproductive and discriminatory social and educational treatment results in the ongoing segregation and exclusion of disabled learners. This study aims to investigate the inclusionary and exclusionary dynamics that exist in the schooling lives of six young physically disabled girls attending three mainstream primary schools in deep rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal, with a view to understanding ways in which these young girls with disabilities navigate these inclusionary and exclusionary dynamics. A commitment to foregrounding the authentic experiences and voices of these young girls led to the use of narrative inquiry in examining the lived schooling experiences of these young rural girls with disabilities. Inclusive Education and Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological theory make up the conceptual and theoretical framework for the study and the study is situated within a qualitative and interpretivist methodological paradigm. The key findings indicate that girls living with disability have difficulty relating equally to their peers and educators and are often subjected to all sorts of abuse and insults by both the learners, educators and community members. In addition to these negative attitudes and stigmatisation, the physical geography of the schools and inflexible curricula further serve as exclusionary dynamics which these learners have to navigate. These learners’ navigation of these exclusionary dynamics is aided by the positive intervention of the School Governing Bodies of the schools with the provision of physical learning aids, as well as the assistance and support offered to these learners by those peers who become their friends and the counselling services at the schools. It is still vitally important that awareness campaigns are launched in all communities, especially rural communities, to encourage an overall change in attitudes towards people living with disabilities, and intervention programmes are needed in all schools to ensure that young learners with disability are protected from abuse and insult.