Leave no child behind: The importance of education for all

In 1960, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted the Convention against Discrimination in Education, which explicitly prohibited any “exclusion from, or limitation to, educational opportunities on the basis of socially-ascribed or perceived differences, such as by sex, ethnic/social origin, language, religion, nationality, economic condition, ability”. This convention sought to ensure access to quality education for all learners, no matter where they come from or what kind of educational needs they have.

Decades later, the UNESCO 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development further emphasised this important sentiment in Sustainable Development Goal 4, again pledging to leave no child behind.

Even so, 262 million children and youth worldwide are not attending school, for varying reasons.

The situation is often much more dire for children who have specific special education needs. As poverty prevents parents and guardians from educating their children at schools that cater for the needs of learners with developmental and learning difficulties, these learners – and all the potential that they carry within them – often fall through the cracks, leaving them with no hope of attaining the skills that will lift them out of their challenging circumstances. Locally, Human Rights Watch in 2015 estimated that more than 600,000 children with disabilities are not in the school system in South Africa.

For more than two decades, Sparrow Schools has made it our mission to address this important need by removing the barriers that prevent active learning, whatever they may be. Our teaching approach caters for a variety of educational needs, and especially also to the needs of learners with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This group of disorders, which include Asperger syndrome and childhood autism, may lead to a range of challenges to learning, including social, communication and behavioural difficulties.

At Sparrow Foundation School, we have diversified our approach to include extramural programmes like Catrobatkidz, which seeks to improve coordination, gross and fine motor skills and spatial relationships, among other beneficial properties of this physical approach to improving learning and learner behaviour in the classroom.

Sparrow has seen wonderful results from learners who take part in the Catrobatkidz programme and this, coupled with a teaching approach that focuses on equipping learners with the skills that will empower them in the future, has enabled us to provide quality education to learners who would otherwise never see themselves complete their schooling.

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