The Star’s coverage of the appalling state of the education system and its effect on children with special needs is deserving of a GLAD. Of note, are three articles which were published on a full page spread outlining the challenges faced by disabled children.
The first article, “The least care for our most vulnerable” (30/07/2012, p.10) offers a detailed insight into challenges affecting children living with special needs and puts them into context. The piece points out how South Africa, a country with legislation that gives maximum protection and promotion of the rights of children with disabilities, still fails to adequately provide for them. So in-depth is the article that the journalist emphasises the fallacy made by schools for Learners with Special Needs (Lsen) of categorizing all children with disabilities as having the same disabilities and conditions. This point is well put across in the article by the journalist reinforcing the idea that “the methods of teaching can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach.”
The article’s rich research also comes through its questioning of the government’s intervention in addressing the challenges Lsen school’s are faced with. This is done brilliantly by probing the outcomes, or lack thereof of the 2006 Education White Paper 6, which was allegedly drafted with the intent of transforming “ordinary schools into full-service schools that were able to properly cater for pupils with special needs irrespective of their disabilities and requirements.”
“Special needs children not getting attention they need”, published on the same page highlights how the education system is failing the very people it should be helping. The article focuses on a case study of children who attend a special needs school in Gauteng, bringing to light the problems that these children encounter on a daily basis. Some of these include relying on only two wheelchairs, “sharing facilities with pupils who are able-bodied”, and having to deal with the unavailability of suitable infrastructure. This was done in a manner that does not cause any harm to the children mentioned in the article, whose identities were protected either by giving them pseudonyms or not naming their parents. In an attempt to hold those involved to account, the journalist went further and interviewed the Gauteng Department of Education as well as the parents of the affected children who all point fingers at the inability of the former to intervene and address the matter.
The last article, “Parents of autistic children dread looming closure of special school” (30/07/2012, p.10), in the same vein as the other articles, continues to highlight the dire situations most children with special needs find themselves including inadequacy of facilities that cater for their specific needs and a lack of financial support. The article under scrutiny reveals how a school that cares for children living with autism is on the verge of being closed down due to a lack of funding. Recent statistics on the state of special needs schools are also included in the article along with the revelation that there are only “seven autism-specific schools in SA.” This drives home the view that children with special needs are not given the attention they deserve and that “child disability is a neglected and serious national problem”1.
Media Monitoring Africa congratulates The Star for well-thought-out and researched pieces on issues that children with special needs are confronted with.
We believe that with such coverage we are one step closer to a better understanding of the social-ills that impact our society’s most vulnerable people.
1. Wentzel, T. National Director of The National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa (NCPPDSA) Available online: http://www.health24.com/news/Child_safety/1-943,74758.asp ↩
In response to the commentary, The Star journalist, Nontobeko Mtshali said:
Thank you so much for this – it means a lot. We’ll keep pressing on.