An estimated one-half-million children with disabilities have been shut out of South Africa’s education system, according to new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The 94-page report titled “Complicity in Exclusion” details how South Africa has failed to guarantee inclusive education for some 500,000 children with disabilities.
Widespread discrimination and negative attitudes about children with disabilities were identified as key barriers that have kept these children out of formal education.
Human Rights Watch Children Rights Division researcher Elin Martinez says these barriers should be removed, immediately.
"Children with disabilities are turned down in mainstream schools and asked to go to special schools where they do not belong," said Martinez. "No one has carried out an adequate assessment to really understand the best learning environment for them. They are simply sent out there and placed on the waiting list and can wait up to four years."
Researchers also found the few disabled children who made it to mainstream schools suffered physical violence and neglect due to inadequate teacher training.
The mother of a child with Down Syndrome, Doreen Moluke, says she is one of many parents who have tried to place their children in school with no success.
"It is so painful seeing your child sitting at home doing nothing, and knowing that your child has got a problem with his mindset," said Moluke. "I need my child to be in school so that he can have experience, opportunities, and he has care that other children has got care for."
Human Rights Watch Africa Executive Director Daniel Bakele says the level of discrimination revealed by the report is not acceptable and that swift action is required from the government.
"We are trying to bring to the attention of the South African authorities to implement the policy, to review the policy, and to make a commitment to address the problem from the root causes," said Bakele.
The South African Human Rights Commission says it will do all it can to ensure the recommendations of the report are implemented.