Published media statements
On Friday 17 July 2020 , the Centre for Child Law (CCL), represented by Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), launched an urgent application in the North Gauteng High Court against the Minister of Basic Education for her failure to adequately provide support, as well as proper health and safety measures, to all learners with disabilities who are returning to special schools and special school hostels, as well as to those who remain at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The litigation is a culmination of various attempts since April this year, by civil society organisations, including Organisations for Persons with Disabilities, to engage as a collective with the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) Inclusive Education Directorate (IED), to monitor progress being made to ensure that the necessary health and safety measures are put in place for learners with disabilities. These include the provision of adjusted and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to officials and learners, as well as ensuring the provision of educational and therapeutic support to learners with disabilities during lockdown, during their phased return to school, and for those learners who continue to remain at home.
EELC also wrote letters of demand to the Minister of Basic Education on behalf of CCL requesting information on the re-opening of schools, with a particular focus on, amongst others, the provision of adjusted PPE such as masks and sanitisers to special schools, special school hostels and special care centres, the criteria that will be used to monitor school readiness, and continued support to those learners who are at home.
Despite attempts to meaningfully engage with the DBE IED, civil society has received delayed, and unsatisfactory responses from the Minister which have left organisations concerned that the very specific needs of thousands of learners with disabilities across the country are not taken into consideration in the DBE’s COVID-19 Directions, planning and guidelines.
A successful order will see the Department develop guidelines for all types of disabilities, support schools with infrastructure capacity in hostels, and ensure that learners with disabilities who remain at home will be adequately supported.
Current Status: On 4th August 2020, the North Gauteng High Court handed down an order (by consent) – The Centre for Child Law, and its legal representatives, Equal Education Law Centre are committed to monitoring the DBE’s compliance with the order over the next 6 weeks.