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Blind Schooling in Crisis

A child's hands with eyes drawn on them reading a braille page.

Failure by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to provide access to adequate schooling, or any schooling for

that matter, to countless disabled pupils is a major threat to their livelihood and dignity.

A survey into schools for visually impaired children in South Africa was recently conducted by the rights organisation SECTION27, and here’s some of their findings:

  • Limited availability of textbooks, workbooks and teachers’ guides in accessible formats, including braille and large print. 17 of the 22 schools for the visually impaired still don’t have access to textbooks at all! Out of 600 plus textbooks that make up the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement there are only about 150 braille adaptations.
  • Huge staff shortages including teachers, assistants, house parents and nurses. These vacant positions cannot be filled due to lack of funds, often leaving untrained volunteers to care for students.
  • A lack of adequately trained teachers – many aren’t even braille literate in elementary or contracted braille. Teachers who are appointed to these schools seldom have any specialist knowledge and most provincial departments of education don’t provide training.
  • Most schools don’t have access to any Orientation and Mobility practitioners – a specialist occupation required at each school to help students complete what to sighted children may be simple tasks.

Despite these awful circumstances the visits also revealed that some children still manage to excel in their studies. These children are an inspiration, but they shouldn’t be an exception.

We can’t shut our eyes to the shocking state it’s in!

SECTION27 is a public interest law centre that seeks to influence, develop and use the law to protect, promote and advance human rights. Blind SA believes that the rights of blind learners are being violated. In order to deal with these failings by the DBE we have joined forces with the SABA and the SANCB and engaged Section 27 to represent us in taking legal action against the DBE. Research for this report has been provided by Tim Fish Hodgson and Silomo Khumalo who both work at SECTION27. Hodgson is a legal researcher and Khumalo is a Student of Law and a Social Justice Researcher.

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