One of the generally misunderstood areas in the basic education sector remains that of Inclusive Education. More often than not, Special Schools are regarded as the sole domain of Inclusive Education. This is incorrect and accordingly distorts the concept of Inclusive Education as espoused by White Paper 6. White Paper 6 charges us to provide a range of services to learners who experience barriers to learning, including learners with disabilities.
The continuum of services to be provided range from high level support which should be available in Special and Full-Service Schools to medium and low level support that should be available in ordinary schools. White Paper 6 directs that Inclusive Education is the prerogative of all teachers, differing only in degree of intensity as it relates to learners with barriers to learning. The Basic Education Sector is intensifying improved inclusive education service delivery and support provision in both special and in public ordinary schools. Amongst others, this includes the Norms for Funding Learners with Special Education Needs in an Inclusive Education System; developing post provisioning norms for Special Schools.
The allocated budget to Public Special School Education for the 2015/16 financial year is R104m and is estimated to increase to R115m by 2017/18. This budget caters for a total of 1975 learners in Public Special Schools. A total of 450 of these learners currently reside in school hostels. An amount of R3m is allocated as a subsidy for these learners with barriers to learning in school hostels.
We continue to invest in professional development of teachers in special schools and public ordinary schools to ensure provision of quality education to learners with barriers to learning.
We reported that for the first time in the history of the South African Education System, Sign Language was introduced as a subject in 2015 in the Foundation Phase and Grade 9. On-going support is currently being provided to the teachers implementing Sign Language and a new cohort of 60 teachers and district officials are being trained in Sign Language levels 1 and 2. In 2016 extension is Intermediate, Senior and FET Phases for the SASL. Training of educators and class assistants will be in November 2015 and Februry 2016 by the DBE.
The provincial human development programme also focuses on training in Braille (level 1 and 2) and a further 300 teachers will be trained on a remedial program in literacy and numeracy. In addition, training will also be provided in institutionalised screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS); on Full Service Guidelines, Special Schools Guidelines and Curriculum Differentiation.
In the true spirit of inter-sectoral collaboration, the Northern Cape Department of Education (NCDoE) continues to partner with departments of Health and Social Development on therapeutic services and social related programs. Provisioning of adequate and appropriate infrastructure remains key to the resourcing of inclusive education. There is clear intention to expand these therapeutic services as posts have been already advertised including psychological and remedial services.
It is in the light of this, that an amount of R12m is currently being invested in the refurbishment of the Elizabeth Conradie Special School hostel. This is a joint partnership between the Northern Cape Department of Education and the Maphalane Disabled Trust. Work in this regards started in the 2014/15 financial year and completion thereof is envisaged to be by the end of the current financial year.
Our heartfelt gratitude once more goes to the Maphalane Disabled Trust for having further committed R10m for skills centres and building of rails and ramps in identified public schools.
For more information on Special Schools in Northern Cape click here