n Education as Change - Developing inclusive school communities : voices of parents of children with disabilities

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Inclusive Education as outlined in the Education White Paper 6 is a response to the widespread social, economic and political changes in South Africa, as well as a means of establishing a caring, humane and egalitarian society. The introduction of this policy will, however, require extensive changes in education, as the focus shifts from learners' adjustment to the demands of the system, to the system's capability to accommodate all learners' needs as inclusively as possible. This means that the collaborative effort of every role-player in developing the new system is critical. For the effective implementation of inclusive education, education legislation and policy stress the role and responsibility of parents, viewing them as integral partners in developing a more inclusive system, where decision-making and the responsibility for outcomes are shared. Parent-school partnerships that allow parents to become active collaborators rather than passive observers of their children's education should therefore be fostered. Although this issue has been addressed in the international context, in South Africa relatively little research has been done into inclusive education from the perceptual and experiential viewpoint of parents of children with disabilities. An understanding of these parents' experiences could contribute to a richer description of the nature of inclusion, could ultimately inform the process of involving parents as partners in developing both an inclusive education system and community, and could better facilitate collaboration between parents and schools. This article presents the findings of the pilot phase of a research project that aimed to uncover and understand the experiences of parents of children with disabilities who are in mainstream classrooms in South Africa. In answer to the research question, the findings of this study suggest that inclusion is a continuous and ongoing process that requires the development of collaborative relationships and support for all the role-players involved.


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