Constraints to quality education and support for all: A Western Cape case
In its vision for education, the National Planning Commission (2011:264) of South Africa states that “all children can access and benefit from high quality education” through flexible services which are available, accessible and responsive to the needs of children, and that “specific consideration will be given to the most vulnerable children – those who live in poverty or with disabilities”. As an emerging economy, South Africa is faced with the challenge of implementing the policy aimed at realising this vision. This paper highlights the plight of learners who have been identified as having high-level support needs and who are waiting for special school placement. Data was collected through questionnaires and semi-structured focus group interviews. In total, 371 participants were involved in this research. Forty-one learning support teachers were pur-posefully selected, and 165 mainstream teachers were systematically selected from within a specific education district of the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The findings imply that the needs of learners on waiting lists are grossly neglected in mainstream classrooms. Teachers generally feel ill equipped to provide adequate support. Various other contextual factors exacerbate this situation. This article offers some practical recommendations in pursuit of moving beyond a discourse of justification to debate the implementation of inclusive education that will benefit all learners, including learners with high-level support needs.
Keywords: continuum of support; emerging economy; high-level support needs; inclusive education; inclusive schools; learning support teachers; mainstream teachers