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Disability support and accessibility in ordinary schools in South Africa


  • Nicola Deghaye

    (Research on Socio-Economic Policy (ReSEP), Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)


Increased access to education among children with disabilities requires increased enrolment of children with disabilities in ordinary schools, the provision of disability support, more accessible school environments and re-training of teachers. There is however little available data on these aspects of disability support or accessibility in South Africa. This hinders accountability for policy implementation and makes budgeting for inclusion difficult. This paper aims to close this gap through multivariate analysis of the School Monitoring Survey 2017, supplemented by analysis of a follow-up qualitative study. The results are compared against the 2011 survey to illustrate progress in implementation. Further, the 2017 survey is compared against the Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support policy 2014 and against promising indicators of school- and teacher-level inputs and processes to identify key measurement gaps. The analysis shows substantially more schools have established school-based support teams, and more of these teams received support from the district, in 2017 than in 2011. A much larger proportion of schools has wheelchair-accessible toilets in 2017. Educators who have been trained in identifying/supporting learners experiencing learning barriers and/or have formal qualifications in special needs education are more likely to be confident in addressing learning barriers. However, many of the current training programmes do not cover curriculum or assessment differentiation. Unfortunately, less than half our schools are confident in their ability to screen learners for visual, hearing or learning difficulties. The results also suggest that educators have a poor understanding of the screening process. The poor ability to screen learners means many learners with less obvious disabilities are unlikely to be identified in schools. As a result, many learners with disabilities/experiencing barriers to learning are unlikely to receive the support they need to participate fully in learning. Inter-provincial inequalities in disability support in ordinary schools are marked. Further data is needed on the accessibility of learning materials and attitudinal barriers in ordinary schools, and the support provided by special schools. The provision of disability support must be measured alongside disability enrolment in the future to allow analysis of unmet need.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicola Deghaye, 2021. "Disability support and accessibility in ordinary schools in South Africa," Working Papers 05/2021, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers365

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    More about this item


    disability; inclusion; learners with disabilities; learner support; schools; basic education; inclusive education; South Africa; teacher training;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination

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