Casual Day celebrates disability awareness month

As South Africa nears the end of the 2015 Disability Right Awareness Month, Casual Day is wrapping up its 2015 campaign and launching its National Schools Programme for 2016. Schools are encouraged to pledge their support for Casual Day and to twin up with mainstream schools in their area.

Casual Day ambassadors Benedictor Mokoena (front) and Adri Visser (back) with Alma School learner Angelique Bezuidenhout
Casual Day ambassadors Benedictor Mokoena (front) and Adri Visser (back) with Alma School learner Angelique Bezuidenhout

“School governing bodies, teachers and parents are encouraged to put Casual Day on their official 2016 calenders now,” says Casual Day project leader Vanessa du Plessis. “Disability Rights Awareness Month (DRAM) provides South Africa with an opportunity to inspire hope and confidence in the ability of communities and the state machinery to work together in addressing the common challenges facing persons with disabilities and society in general.

Some of the children who benefit from Casual Day funds - the children and teachers of Tshilidzini Special School in Thoyohandou, Limpopo province
Some of the children who benefit from Casual Day funds – the children and teachers of Tshilidzini Special School in Thoyohandou, Limpopo province

“Since schools are a significant aspect of government and schools are where values and morals are inculcated, we encourage government bodies to ensure that Casual Day is celebrated in each and every public and private school in South Africa.”

Owned by the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa (NCPPDSA) and sponsored by Edcon, Casual Day remains the most meaningful fundraiser for persons with disabilities and is a lifeline for many organisations serving the community of persons with disabilities in South Africa.

“To date Casual Day has contributed over R222 million to the funding of organisations providing education, assistive devices, shelter and employment to the almost 15% of the population who have disabilities. The amount raised in 2015 will be announced next year in February, but we will add at least R20 to that number,” says Du Plessis.

“We work in conjunction with the network of disability organisations who work together with the ordinary people of South Africa and our sponsors, Edcon, Game, Checkers and Absa, and the hundreds of companies, to bring this money in.

“South Africa commemorates National Disability Rights Awareness Month annually between 3 November and 3 December. 3 December is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and is also commemorated as National Disability Rights Awareness Day. It is important to note that government funding for NGOs working in the sector is inadequate – and that most of them survive on private donations, which means Casual Day is vital to these services,” she says.

According to Stats SA’s Community Survey 2007, children with disabilities are less likely to have access to adequate housing, water and sanitation than their non-disabled peers. Children with disabilities are more likely to live in traditional dwellings and informal settlements than their non-disabled counterparts. Overcrowded living conditions and outside toilets place enormous stresses on children with disabilities and their families.

There is little national evidence available on access to early learning for pre-school children with disabilities. A 2006 study found that only a quarter of children aged 0-6 years, who were recipients of the Care Dependency Grant (CDG), attended a crèche or child-minding group. Where children with disabilities do have access to early learning, it often takes place within informal community settings, with individuals (such as mothers of disabled children) running stimulation programmes.

The Department of Social Development also admits that there is a shortage of  skills within the children’s disability sector, and says strategies are necessary to ensure that available human resources serve the areas of greatest need.

The country’s inclusive education programme has enabled expansion of facilities for children with disabilities in public ordinary (mainstream) schools. A study of the period between 2001 and 2011 found that the number of full-service schools (FSSs), i.e. schools that are equipped to support a range of disabilities, grew from 30 in 2008/09 to 513 in 2010/11. Some 110 300 learners with disabilities were attending ordinary public schools in 2011. In addition, 423 special needs schools nationwide are catered for approximately 105 000 learners in 2011.

Most of these schools participate in Casual Day and raise a substantial amount of their running costs via Casual Day infrastructure.

Research co-ordinated by the Department of Social Development in Mpumalanga, in deep rural areas in Ehlanzeni, Nkangala and Gert Sibande districts, found that only 42 percent of the children with disabilities identified were receiving rehabilitation and only 33 percent had the assistive devices they required. Some 59 percent reported that the caregiver did not know how to apply for an assistive device.

According to a study by NCPPDSA, children with disabilities are substantially less likely to attend school than their non-disabled peers. Furthermore, among those children with disabilities who do get access to schooling, drop-out rates are higher than for those who are not disabled.

A study by Casual Day participant Disabled Children’s Action Group (DICAG) found significant gaps in the child justice system in dealing with cases that involved children with disabilities. Witnesses were in many instances seen as incompetent when the level of language used in court proceedings was too complex and not understandable to the victims.

“These figures are shocking and saddening, but Casual Day brings a huge ray of hope, because the awareness campaign around Casual Day puts a public focus on the needs of persons with disabilities. We do not only focus on children, but provide funding to the entire age spectrum. For example Alzheimer’s South Africa raises funds for its research and awareness campaigns through Casual Day,” says du Plessis.

Casual Day raises awareness of disability in an uplifting way, focusing on the positive contribution made by persons with disabilities to communities. Casual Day unites communities, focusing on compassion, giving and community spirit in action.

Casual Day covers a range of disabilities – beneficiaries include:

  • National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in SA
  • South African National Council for the Blind
  • QuadPara Association of South Africa
  • South African Federation for Mental Health
  • Deaf Federation of South Africa
  • Autism South Africa
  • Down Syndrome South Africa
  • National Association for Persons with Cerebral Palsy
  • South African National Deaf Association
  • National Institute for the Deaf
  • Alzheimer’s South Africa
  • South African Disability Alliance
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