Equal Education celebrates the recent victory in the Western Cape for intellectually disabled learners, and the affirmation by the Western Cape High Court of the right of everyone to a basic education, dignity and equality.
Equal Education (EE) is encouraged by a recent judgment in the Western Cape High Court, where the court upheld and advanced the rights of children who are severely and profoundly intellectually disabled. Last week, the court found that the government’s failure to make provision for the educational needs of children with IQ’s below 35 was a breach of the children’s constitutional rights to basic education, equality and dignity, and protection from neglect or degradation.
Currently, children in the Western Cape who are severely and profoundly intellectually disabled (with IQs below 35) are not directly catered for in the schooling system, despite them being of the most vulnerable groups in our society. Instead, only children who have IQ’s between 35 and 70 (who are classified as having moderate to mild intellectual disabilities) are able to attend special schools, while children with severe and profound intellectual disabilities are catered for by way of a subsidy from the Department of Health, which is given to Special Care Centres.
These Special Care Centres are run by non-governmental organisations. Children who are not able to access these Special Care Centres are not provided with any education at all. The judgment notes that the state cannot expect NGO’s to be responsible for providing these children with their educational needs, which is ultimately the state’s constitutional obligation. The court also found that the current number of Special Care Centres is insufficient to cater for all children in the province who are severely and profoundly intellectually disabled.
The court ordered the government to take “reasonable measures (including interim steps) in order to give effect to the said rights of severely and profoundly intellectually disabled children in the Western Cape." These steps must make sure that "every child in the Western Cape who is severely and profoundly intellectually disabled has affordable access to a basic education of an adequate quality." Also, the government was ordered to report back to the court in 12 months on progress in this regard.
Equal Education supports this judgment and will be monitoring its implementation to ensure that the rights of the children in question are not further violated.