“Our children have the right to an education too”: Strategies employed by Orange Farm Caregivers of Children with Disabilities in Pursuit of the Right to a Basic Education

Jean Elphick, Zosa De SasKropiwnicki, Rosalind Elphick


Purpose: This paper aims to understand the agency that caregivers who participated in a CBR empowerment component programme exercised, in order to promote the rights of their children with disabilities to a basic education.

Methods: An interdisciplinary theoretical framework and qualitative methodology were used to examine the agency and the opportunity structures within which the caregivers operate. Focus group discussions, case study interviews and secondary Programme data were analysed using manual thematic analysis.

Results: Thousands of children with disabilities in South Africa are effectively denied the right to a basic education as a result of discriminatory norms, stigmatising discourses and unjust power relations. Yet, a group of caregivers have successfully advocated for their children with disabilities in the township of Orange Farm, Gauteng. Their lobbying has contributed to the establishment, by the State, of a new school.

Conclusion and Implications: The findings suggest that human rights advocacy movements, as well as disability organisations, would do well to recognise and encourage the power and agency possessed by caregivers of children with disabilities. Catalysing civic action and providing opportunities for active citizenry and self-help seem to nurture increased efficacy and competence at navigating systems and accessing rights. While advocacy organisations may act as proxy agents, direct and collective agentic strategies should be nurtured. In implementing inclusive education, policy makers and the Department of Education should recognise the role that caregivers of children with disabilities can play, and the potential contribution that their motivation, resourcefulness, and disability-related knowledge can make.


Disability; children; self-efficacy; agency; strategy; empowerment

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5463/dcid.v26i4.503


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