Inclusive basic education in south africa: issues in its conceptualisation and implementation

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LN Murungi1

1 Introduction

The Constitution recognises the right of "everyone" to "a basic education”.2 However, the meaning of the term “basic education” is not agreed upon amongst key role players or stakeholders. In recent years, particularly in the period after the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), there has been a sustained campaign for education to be inclusive. Essentially, there has been a push to adopt "inclusive education" as the best approach to ensure that education is accessible to all. Relying on a general notion of "inclusion", it is arguable that the term “inclusive education” should refer to education that is accessible to all persons in society. However, the term has been applied mainly in the context of persons with disabilities, with the result that efforts towards achieving inclusive education have concentrated on ensuring that persons with disabilities can access education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live. However, this view is limiting to the overall goal of universal access to primary education, both under the Constitution and internationally.

This article considers how “inclusive education” may be construed in accordance with the Constitution. It particularly assesses the existing approaches to inclusive education as compared to the right to "a basic education" provided under section 29 of the Constitution. Thereafter, the conceptualisation of inclusive basic education in South Africa is compared to the conceptualisation of inclusive education in international legal instruments. The provisions of the CRPD, which South Africa ratified on 30 November 2007, are particularly instructive in this regard. The article starts by setting out the background to the right to basic education and inclusive education in international law and South African law and policy.

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