March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), this global awareness day has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. The date for WDSD, being the 21st day of the 3rd month, was chosen to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (Trisomy21) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome. During the month of March, which is also Human Rights Month, Down Syndrome South Africa (DSSA) will be calling on government to increase support and promote inclusion. The theme this year is: “Inclusion means…”. During our campaign, we are asking: What does #Inclusionmean?
In its general principles the United Nations Covention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) calls for:
“Full and effective participation and inclusion in society”
Everyone should have the same opportunities, to be able to go to the same places, take part in the same activities, and enjoy the same experiences in life. But the sad reality today, is that persons with Down syndrome and other disabilities do not benefit from full and effective inclusion in society. Can you believe… fewer than 10% of countries have laws that help ensure full inclusion in education.
Families Taking Action for Inclusion
The educational path of children with disabilities in South Africa is strewn with logistical, social, and economic pitfalls that mean they often face a compromised school experience, if they can enrol at all. Despite the law that requires that inclusion be the rule, not the exception, there is still a lage proportion of children with disabilities in South Africa who remain out of school. They are more likely to miss out on school than other children. Even if they go to school, they are more likely to leave before finishing their primary education.
When there is a crisis situation, like the current COVID-19 pandemic,children and adults with disabilities were furthest left behind. However, it’s widely accepted that education and access to information is even more crucial in these circumstances to provide structure, emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Learners are more than Chromosomes, DSSA noted that among learners with Down syndrome who have access to education, most are schooled at special schools, excluded from mainstream education. Children with Down syndrome are denied the right to inclusive quality education, resulting in negative impacts on quality of life, health status, income, and employment outcomes. Parents of children with Down syndrome have been demanding inclusive schools for a long time, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). Parents have a right to have their wishes taken into account when it comes to placing their child in local neighbourhood school.
OUR CALL TO ACTION
In March and April being, Human Rights Month and Freedom Month we will be launching our “Inclusive Education” campaign where we will be sharing key messages on “Inclusive Education” and “What part does education play in a more inclusive society” Join this discussion and follow our Inclusive Education campaign every week until April by liking, sharing and commenting on our posts. Let’s unite in our call for action, together we can make inclusion happen, Inclusion benefits all.