The Jabulani Rural Health Foundation brings hope and a commitment to positive change in realising the right of children with disabilities to access education.

“The government is failing thousands of children and young people with disabilities who are being denied their right to inclusive education” Elin Martinez, Human Rights Watch

The Jabulani Rural Health Foundation works in Zithulele, a rural village in the Eastern Cape, situated in a former homeland area and in one of the poorest districts in the province. Children with disabilities have very few options for education and rely mostly on hospital based occupational therapists for assessments and referrals to special schools approximately 95km away in Mthatha. No community based outreach services supporting inclusive education existed until Jabulani’s ‘Rural Ability Programme’ and their ‘ECD in the Home Programme’ started doing home visits, identifying children who were experiencing barriers to learning and referring them to services.

The Rural Ability Programme is a community based inclusive development programme. It supports the inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in their families and communities.  One of the components of the programme focuses on inclusive education and supporting children with disabilities to access educational opportunities. The ECD in the Home programme takes Early Childhood Development out of centre-based initiatives and into people’s home; inspiring and educating parents and caregivers about how they are their children’s first teacher and how much there is that a child can learn before engaging in formal education, while also facilitating access to further formal education.

Through the experience of both these programmes, and along with the therapists based at Zithulele Hospital, we realised that through a combination of home based support, parent and child support groups, and teacher training, many more children could be included at schools and ECD centres near their homes. The Rural Ability Programme started working with teachers at local pre-schools and primary schools in 2015. This included sensitising parents and teachers to the rights of children with disabilities to access educational opportunities. Teachers attended training that challenged their perceptions of what inclusive education really meant and started to realise that with just small adaptations and attitude shifts, ALL children CAN be included.

Take Noluntu* for example. She had been enrolled in a school, but was in danger of “falling through the cracks” because she was not being included. Her now enlightened teacher noticed that she seemed particularly shy and was not speaking at school. The education team decided to meet with Noluntu’s mother to gain a better understanding of why she may not be speaking. After this meeting they arranged an appointment with the Speech and Language therapist and Audiologist at Zithulele Hospital. Noluntu was diagnosed with a speech and hearing difficulty and therapy sessions were arranged. The results have been really positive; Noluntu has remained in the pre-school and has improved significantly.

Principal Thandeka and Teacher Minikazi from the School

The principal of Jabulani’s Pre-school Programme has become a real ambassador for inclusive education. Teacher Thandeka has shared what she has learnt with other teachers and to a wider audience at community meetings.  She has also encouraged parents of children with disabilities to enrol their children at her pre-school. Thandeka’s pre-school was established in 2009 and for the first time, this year her school has enrolled 3 children with disabilities. Four more learners with disabilities have been included in neighbouring pre-schools/day care centers, all of whom receive regular visits from the community workers.

This would not have been possible without the close collaboration of Jabulani’s Rural Ability Programme and the Education Programme teams and our partnership with Zithulele Hospital.  Working together has seen the vision of inclusive education made possible even in this small village in the rural Eastern Cape. Together the teachers, community workers, parents, therapists, coordinators and managers have supported and realised the implementation of policy and every child’s right to education.  (

Facebook: Jabulani Rural Health Foundation