A case study of a neighbourhood school that included two learners who are blind
Internationally, the rights of persons with disabilities to participate as full members of society through inclusive education has become a high priority with the adoption of the first legally binding treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006). In keeping with our culture of acknowledging the rights of all, South Africa has already made great strides towards fulfilling these rights and is in the implementation phase of Education White Paper 6: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System (Department of Education, 2001). In spite of this, the practicability of implementing inclusive education is questioned by many. The inclusion of learners who are blind in neighbourhood schools, as opposed to ‘special schools’, is a particularly daunting task. However, the more local cases we have from which to draw insights, the better our chances of making inclusive education both practicable and widely accessible across a range of local contexts. A public, mainstream neighbourhood school that included two learners who are blind was therefore investigated to learn more about how the learners who are blind were physically, socially and academically included in the local school community. Qualitative data collection methods including semi-structured interviews and observations were used to uncover useful strategies, challenges and enabling factors that contributed to their successful inclusion. The findings revealed that the participants in this study had very little knowledge or experience in building an inclusive educational setting at the outset, but engaged in the process with open minds, creativity and trust. By adopting a collaborative approach and an attitude of ‘failing forward’, the objective of social and academic inclusion was to a great extent achieved in the school.