History of Special Education in South Africa and the Challenges of Inclusive Education
- Sigamoney Manicka NaickerSigamoney Manicka NaickerWestern Cape Education Department
Altering a dual system of education (special and ordinary) in South Africa to an inclusive system requires substantial change in terms of thinking and practice. After almost 20 years of implementing Education White Paper 6 (published by South Africa’s Department of Education in 2001), it is very important that theories, assumptions, practices, models, and tools are put under intense scrutiny for such an inclusive policy to work. Such a single system of education should develop the capacity to address barriers to learning if it wants to include all learners into the system. What are the main barriers that deprive learners from access to a single system of education and what changes should take place so that a truly inclusive system can be created? South Africa introduced seven white papers in education but all of them were implemented in ways that were not entirely influenced by the theory and practice of inclusive education. Inclusive education requires the system to change at a structural level so that mainstream education takes ownership of the ideology and practice of inclusive education. This change should bring about consistency in relation to other white papers; for example, curriculum development, early childhood education, and adult education. In implementing inclusive education, South Africa did not take seriously the various barriers to inclusion, such as curriculum, in providing access to learners who experience difficulties. Thus, an in-depth analysis of the history of special education is provided, with a view toward specifying recommendations for attempts to create the right conditions for a truly inclusive system of education in South Africa.