On 21 August 2008 The Star published an article “State chips away at disabled kids’ rights” (21/08/08, p. 12) by Niels Posthumus. The article deserves to be nominated for a MAD OAT Glad award, for bringing attention to the rights of disabled children, and highlighting how these are being violated through government policies, practices, and funding allocations. In doing so, The Star holds the government to account in its duties and responsibilities to protect the rights of disabled children.
The article focuses on the complaint made by Forest Town School, on behalf of several special schools in Gauteng, to the South African Human Rights Commission, that the Gauteng Department of Education and Minister of Education violated children’s rights.
Children’s rights include the right to non-discrimination, dignity, education and protection from abuse and neglect (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; and Section 28 of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of South Africa).
According to Article 23 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which South Africa is a signatory to, disabled children have the right to “special care, education and training to help [them] enjoy a full and decent life in dignity and achieve the greatest degree of self-reliance and social integration possible” (Summary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, poster available from the Children’s Rights Centre).
By accessing a number of experts, including the head of the caregiver programme at the school, other schools, and the Chair of the Human Rights Commission, the article gives a breakdown of how cut backs in staffing, and allocation of funding, have violated children’s rights to “equality…human dignity…education…and protection from abuse and neglect” (The Star, 21/08/08, p. 12).
By being a signatory to the UNCRC the South African government has committed itself to ensuring that children can grow up in safe and supportive conditions with access to high quality education and a good standard of living.
By focusing on this particular case, The Star manages to both educate the public on the rights of disabled children, and bring attention to the government’s failure to meet their commitment to these children. In doing so, The Star supports the efforts of special schools to ensure the government takes on its responsibilities towards disabled children.