Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) awards a GLAD1 to The Star for the article “Schools failing to educate children with disabilities” (16/07/2013, p.5). The article, written by Charlotte Chipangura, does well in bringing about awareness on the lack of schools for children with disabilities.

The article which was seemingly inspired by a recent parliamentary report that indicated that there is a large amount of children with disabilities that are not going to school, provided two case studies of South African parents whose children are disabled and the challenges they face in finding suitable schools for them. The first case study focused on a mother whose six-years-old autistic son has been rejected by all the preschools around his area because of his condition. The mother expressed how this rejection has hampered the boy’s development and as a result he is unable to neither “feed himself nor speak.”

The second case study, detailed a mother’s disappointment with the rejection of her 11-year-old daughter by mainstream schools in her area. The mother is quoted saying that her daughter attended a preschool where she was in the company of children without disabilities and was able “to relate to other kids.” These two case studies not only tellingly illustrate the challenges that beset children with disabilities but they also show that, given the opportunity to be educated alongside students without special needs can yield positive benefits for them.

The writer holds the government accountable for the discrimination of pupils with special needs by the mainstream schools on the “failure by the Department of Education to enforce government policy on inclusive education, which has been in place for the past 12 years”. The article also includes reasons pointed out by Department of Education’s Minister Angie Motshekga who purported that a lack of special schools and “cultural stigma attached to disability” are among the barriers to learning for children with disabilities.

A number of sources were used in the article where solutions to this problem were sought out. One parent suggested that in order to close the gap between able and disabled children, all teachers should be given basic special needs training. Furthermore, the sources were from both rural and suburban areas, to show that the unavailability of schools for children with special needs is a common problem experienced across various areas of South Africa.

The picture of a child with disabilities published alongside the article is also excellent as it is not only respectful to the child in question but it also debunks stereotypes about children with disabilities and illustrates to the reader that although it may be a challenge for them to write, it certainly is not impossible.

MMA compliments Charlotte Chipangura on her excellent reporting and pushing the boundaries in order to get answers for marginalised children. Such reporting is commended as it raises awareness about children with disabilities and possibly could further assist such children in getting access to schools.

1. On a weekly basis, MMA highlights cases of good practice, where the media has promoted the rights and welfare of children, otherwise referred to as “GLADs”, as well as instances where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage, referred to as “MADs

In response to the commentary, The Star’s journalist, Charlotte Chipangura said:

“Thank you very much!! I am really thrilled and honoured that my article was selected for GLAD. “