The National Conference on the provision of quality education for those with special needs is continuing in Polokwane. Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, says it is concerning that over half a million children with disabilities are not at school.

Waiting lists for special schools increase every year but a few make it on these lists and get the education they deserve.

Motshekga says a shortage of special schools is a major contributor to the high number of children who are not at school.

“More than 500 000 children in the five to 15 year age group are not attending any educational institution, which is a matter of great concern that we have to really address as a nation.

“The highest number of children with disabilities not recorded on school enrollment statistics was in KZN at more than 117 000.

“If the current trend of building schools to accommodate learners with disabilities continues, 1380 new schools should be built.

“Because this is not feasible, a radically different approach needs to be followed in an inclusive education system.”

The minister says it will take government a long time to build enough schools,which is why children with disabilities should rather attend mainstream schools.

“The aim should be to provide educational support to learners with special needs as close as possible to their homes so as to foster integration into family and community life.

“Institutionalisation should be considered under extreme circumstances if we want to see our society as an open society that combats discrimination and stigmatisation.”

Motshekga says her department will prioritise the building and renovations of boarding facilities for learners with disabilities.