Hello, my name is Robyn and I’m the director at Inclusive Education South Africa. I’m coming to Belgium in October for the study visit and wanted to give you a little bit of information beforehand about the work of our organization and some of the challenges we face in implementing IE in SA. Inclusive Education South Africa is a non-profit organisation. We’ve been around since 1995 and we work to try and promote good inclusive practices in preschool, schools and other centres of learning. South Africa is often called the rainbow nation and that’s because it’s characterized by a population of people who are so diverse. We have different cultures, languages, races, people of different abilities, all striving to live together within an inclusive society. Our learning population is no different to this. It’s also characterised by wide diversity. It’s important for our schools to create inclusive cultures where children from all different backgrounds and experiencing a wide range of barriers to learning, feel welcomed in an inclusive environment. This helps us to create active citizens who one day will become part of this inclusive society. Although we have inclusive education policies in place in SA, in fact since 2001, we see that 15 years later, progress in its implementation is not being what we’d have hoped for. There are many children who remain excluded from education in our system, and also children who, even though they have access to education, aren’t being supported to learn. But that being said, there are also wonderful examples of good inclusive practice. Ordinary schools which have embraced inclusion, have created welcoming environments where all children are valued, where all children are participating. And these are schools that function within the same constraints as all other schools. I hope that in my visit to you in October, I will be able to share with you some of these inclusive practices and we can learn from each other. But for now I would also like to introduce you to the rest of my team at IESA so you can see the different programmes we’re involved in and the different work that we do. My name is Nathalie and I work for our unique information and support programme for Inclusive Education South Africa. Through this programme we have the opportunity to provide parents, professionals and service providers with information about inclusive education and what it means for the children that they represent. We get into contact with them through meetings, over the telephone, we use our social media platforms, or we simply send an email as well. The reason why we do what we do is that in South Africa we have 60% of our children who do not leave school with a school leaving grade 12 certificate. What that often means is that we are contacted by parents of these children who are at risk, because they are not receiving support in school or they have dropped out of school because of the lack of support. What we try and do is get teachers and schools to think creatively of the different ways they can support the children within the classroom and we find that if we have teachers that are passionate and skilled, that there is such an impact when they work in partnership with parents and it actually leads to making inclusion a reality. At the end of the day, what we want to see, is that our parents are empowered so that they know what they are able to do, what their rights are within our inclusive education system. Hi. I’m Charlene, I’m one of the school facilitators and in the schools programme we are focused on promoting inclusive practices within primary and high schools across the country. The schools programme specifically looks at a whole school development approach. That simply means we work with building capacity in the school management teams, school governing body, educators, parents, children, all stakeholders within the education system in South Africa. Many teachers still believe inclusion is just about disability. We promote the fact that inclusion is about accommodating learners with a broad range of barriers to learning. In South Africa we have many children coming to school hungry, from families experiencing abuse. And so we really try to get teachers to look at children holistically. Hi, my name is Ellis, I work in the ECD team. We believe that inclusive education is very important. That is why we identify any barriers and we also intervene in these barriers as early as possible. We work with as many ECD centres as possible, to strengthen them to become inclusive. Hi, I’m Victoria, working for inclusive education as an ECD facilitator. We believe that there are many children in South Africa, particularly in rural areas, who don’t have access to ECD centres. We also support home-based carers and community workers to identify children with barriers to learning and also stimulating children at home. I’m sure some of the challenges we face in inclusive education in South Africa are some of the challenges you are facing too, particularly when it comes to the attitudes and willingness of teachers to include, the skills of teachers to know how to differentiate, both the curriculum, the classroom environment and assessment. I hope that we’ll be able to share some of our examples of good practice with you, share some of our challenges, and hopefully walk away with a better insight into how we can both go forward to improve implementation of inclusive education in our countries. I’m really looking forward to meeting you and hope you are too.