The Pretoria High Court last week handed down an order (by consent), ordering the department of Basic Education (DBE) to make provision for all pupils with special needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The court order comes after the Centre for Child Law (CCL), represented by Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), took the minister of basic education to court for the department’s failure to adequately provide for all pupils with disabilities during the pandemic.
The two organisations particularly took issue with the education department’s directions published on June 23 2020, which only provided guidelines for schools with pupils who are
deaf, blind or partially sighted, and pupils with autism, while failing to cater specifically to the needs of pupils with intellectual disabilities, severe to profound intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities and pupils with epilepsy.
The court said the directives must ensure that special school hostels are provided with additional infrastructure capacity when alternatives do not allow for the reasonable accommodation of pupils with disabilities.
The CCL and EELC in a joint statement said the court order was a significant victory for all pupils with disabilities. “The court order also requires the minister of basic education
to amend the DBE’s Guidelines for Schools on Maintaining Hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic so that it provides health and safety measures designed specifically for learners with disabilities in schools, hostels, and offices,” read the statement.
“Lastly, the directions must be amended so that they guide DBE heads of department in the provision of appropriate learning and teaching support materials, education-specific assistive devices, and therapeutic services to those learners with disabilities who cannot return to school during the pandemic, to ensure that they are still able to access basic education at home,” CCL and EELC added.
Meanwhile, Blind SA CEO Jace Nair said blind and visually impaired pupils face a constant battle to get access to equal and quality education – especially during the pandemic.