Inclusive education policy and practice : investigating the educational rights and needs of learners and students with visual impairments in South Africa
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Focus This thesis investigates inclusive education policy and practice in South Africa. In this context, particular focus is given to the rights and needs of visually impaired learners and students. Background Due to the dual segregated education system, as at 2001, approximately 280 000 disabled children did not have access to education at school. The special schools system fostered inequality and discrimination of disabled learners from an early age. This stood in tension with the South African Constitution and was not in line with international trends. This ‘normative tension’ and lack of alignment with evolving international practice led to a shift towards an inclusive education system as a policy preference. Policy In 1996 the Constitution and the South African Schools Act prescribed that everyone had the right to basic education and should not be discriminated against on any grounds. Mainstream schools catered for able-bodied learners, and existing legislation did not automatically equip schools and teachers with resources and training to accommodate disabled learners. To enable directives to obtain these objectives, Education White Paper 6 was passed in 2001. This policy documented Government’s intent to implement an inclusive education system by 2021. Investigation The educational needs of visually impaired learners were identified and discussed. An analysis of White Paper 6, highlighting its strengths and limitations in light of the identified specialised educational needs, was conducted. Research was undertaken in mainstream schools, special schools and universities to assess the progress of the implementation process. Challenges impeding the process including untrained educators, insufficient funding, and no established provisioning norms were identified. Inclusive education has its foundations within social rights theory. Education, like other basic social rights is a justiciable right which the State must uphold. However, like all normative wish lists of rights, limited resources, competing claimants and policy trade-offs are inevitable, more especially in a developing country. As a result budgets, utilisation of funds and accountability of the Department of Education were also investigated. Conclusion Following an analysis of the contents of the policy and findings on the progress of the implementation process, policy recommendations- informed by the researchwere proposed.