On a visit to the University of Western Cape (UWC), my fellow classmates and I were told that the university was instituted to provide “education for marginalized people.” Established in 1959, UWC was created to afford Blacks and Colored people a chance at higher education. Over the course of the university’s history, the student population has been diversified.
My research for the study abroad program which I’m participating in is assessing if and/or how the South African education system provides access for disabled and differently-abled students. I’m analyzing the accessibility of K-12 education for disabled/differently-abled students in order to access higher education. The description of the university as an institution for marginalized peoples prompted me to probe further on accommodations. To my disappointment, the presenter from the admissions office could not provide statistics on the population of students who were either physically disabled or diagnosed with learning and cognitive learning disabilities, nor services available to students with disabilities.
While these policies of inclusive education are commendable, implementation is inequitable. My research finds that accessibility for disabled/differently-abled individuals in South Africa differs along class lines. On visits to more affluent schools, I saw a myriad of support services for students with disabilities, ranging from testing accommodations to differentiated instruction. This contrasts with visits to rural areas where there is a clear lack of students being diagnosed for services or individualized learning plans. These students struggle with instruction and learning because their schools or parents cannot afford to provide them the supplementary learning support.