Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Creating a Democratic Culture in Managing Classroom Contexts of Disability – Part 1

Written By

Gregg Alexander and Duma Mhlongo

Submitted: September 25th, 2020 Reviewed: February 5th, 2021 Published: May 20th, 2021

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.96433

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The Department of Basic Education (DBE) in South Africa ratified Education White Paper 6: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System- a policy document which made an explicit declaration to create inclusive classroom contexts within a targeted period of 20 years. Succinctly, this declaration has cast the year 2021, as a major social justice milestone for citizens with disabilities. The chapter strongly believes that this milestone deserves to attract both critical dialogue and empirical engagements as to determine the impact of the Education White Paper 6. Internationally, there are various policy guidelines available, in the quest to create a democratic classroom context with the objective of accommodating diversity, more specifically to address oppressive and non-inclusive disability contexts. The reader audience will be taken across various discourses on disability rights and literature readings responding to redress within the realm of the World Health Organisation and the International Labour Organisation, among others. Before the chapter concludes, a reflective activity is provided; together with a practical assessment activity where the authors create a democratic culture-centric lesson plan meant to support teachers in their inclusive education quest to create ideal democratic classroom contexts.


  • inclusive
  • democracy
  • disability
  • classroom

1. Introduction

This chapter explores South Africa’s inclusive education service delivery mandate of democratising or transforming schools to represent an inclusive teaching and learning environment by the year 2021, as contained in the Draft Education White Paper 5: Special Needs Education – Building an Inclusive Education and Training System [1] and the Education White Paper 6: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System [2], p. 45. Fundamentally, the current landscape of inclusive education in South Africa deserves deeper monitoring, given the pre-1994 historical impact of separate development based on overtly unfair infrastructure resourcing of schools according to apartheid policies. Firstly, the chapter will unpack the social ecology theoretical frame as a basis for understanding the philosophical foundations of inclusive education as it relates to the classroom and post-school contexts. Secondly, the role of stakeholders who engage in this democratisation process and the related principles thereof will be discussed. The contextualization of a modern democratised socio-educational culture will be the third aspect to be examined. Lastly, postmodernist reflections on creating a future to empower citizens with a disability will be explained, with the objective of promoting a sustainable democratic culture within crucial socio-economic competency institutions, such as schools and workplaces, as envisaged by the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development [3]. It is highly important that teachers intending to be visibly efficient in an inclusive education environment, as well as practitioners in the post-school contexts should orientate and sensitise themselves with both the immediate (school based) and wider (community) social interactions challenges due to a specific disability. Hence, with the latter said in mind, we will now discuss the social ecology theory and its related prerequisites which are essential in understanding the philosophical foundations of inclusive education in both classroom and post-school contexts.


2. Expanded definition of disability within the context of democracy

A decade ago, in the context of South Africa, a scholar named, Dhupelia-Mesthrie availed literature which reflected on the open political engagements with the then apartheid government, which occurred during the 1970s and 1980s as to democratise the status of all non-whites citizens with the intention to allow them to participate in the voting process for a political party of their choice into the national parliament [4]. In 1997, the Office of the Deputy President’s White Paper on Integrated National Disability Strategy [5] added impetus to the democratisation status for all citizens, by defining disability categories according to an individual’s medical condition which contributes to limited perceived or subtle interaction with one’s social contexts, such as the home, educational or workplace situations. This expanded definition therefore contributed to the development of guidelines relating to the reasonable accommodation of this historically marginalised population group. The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health [ICF] concurs further by emphasising that environmental factors (transportation barriers, physical access, social attitudes, a lack of adequate health insurance, etc.) can facilitate or hinder the impact of features on the physical, social and attitudinal contexts of the individual, based on an individual’s disability status [6].

In the United States of America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe a disability, (which may include various types, such as vision, movement, thinking, remembering, learning, communicating, hearing, mental health and social relationships) as a condition of the body or mind (impairment) that prohibits the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with their immediate environment (participation restrictions) [7]. Furthermore, different life situations involve people in essential human activities, such as learning, communicating, interacting or moving around. The manner in which individuals with disabilities participate in various human activities (learning, communicating, interacting or moving around) is dependent on many factors which inevitable affect their independent lifestyles, personal mobility, education, work and employment. Therefore, within a social model context, disability seems to be comprehended as a complex construct than simple categories suggest and is perceived as the result of an interaction between environmental characteristics and the individual.

Transportation is considered a social context presenting accessibility challenges affecting the life world of people with physical disabilities-this aspect may be construed as a participation restriction in the normal daily operations of individuals with disabilities, which includes collaborative engagements such as workplace teams with colleagues, engaging in social and recreational activities, accessing health care and wellness services [6]. Table 1 lists prevalent categories of disabilities according to Donald, Lazarus and Lolwana [8], p. 47 and Swarts [9] and Ngwena [10, 11, 12].

Sight: partial, mild or severe blindness
Hearing: partial, mild or severe hearing loss
Communication: deaf or mute
Physical: paraplegic or amputee
Intellectual: dyslexic or autistic spectrum
Emotional: clinical depression
Mental: persistent or permanent mild or severe cognitive challenges

Table 1.

Categories of disabilities bearing challenges on educational attainment.

To promote the ideal of a democratic culture, a transformative and inclusive education service delivery mandate across all South Africa’s schools and higher learning institutions is envisaged. This chapter therefore emphasises an outline on the collaborative role of teachers, parents and social experts in rendering support to individuals in overcoming vocational and educational challenges.

During the past two decades, South Africa has experienced a sharp increase in the proliferation of mind-altering drugs among the school going youth, mostly at both primary school exit and secondary entry cohorts. The repercussions of these overnight hard addiction drugs has led to frustrated community members lynching or ‘necklacing’ these youngsters due to rampant and fearless break-and-entry, marathon insomnia, self-induced and prolonged hunger for days, stealing also from their own families to feed the habit, consistent poor academic performance for those who stay long enough at school, and obviously, dropping out of school. Community disgust towards these new age drugs, namely, nyaope, tik and katt means spontaneous repulsion towards the users; and generally, not only parents but teachers too are at a total loss of interventions. The authors have drawn an estimate that in South Africa, a single psychologist or social work is bound to have a case load of about 500 schools (described as ratio 1:1:500), in contrast to private schools, where the ratio is 1:1:1. The author’s empirical assumption is derived from evidence presented by Vergottini and Weyers showing the school social worker trends per province of South Africa [13]. The table below displays the stark inequalities per province over the years and currently; in lieu of the provision of social worker services in supporting teachers as professional advisors, and as visiting therapists to learners.

It will be interesting to reflect on the correlation between Tables 1 and 2 above and Table 3 to follow, as a gesture of potential future research projects to evaluate the inclusive Education White Paper 6’s targeted 20 years impact from 2001 to 2021 To emphasis this nationwide crisis, A Case in Context labelled X; is simulated hereunder.

ProvincePast Ratio (Specific Year)Current Ratio (Year)
Gauteng4 school social workers (2010)27 (2015)
Western Cape4 school social workers (1982)166 (2017)
Free State4 school social workers (2010)32 (2017)
KwaZulu-Natal11 school social workers (2011)25 (2015)
Limpopo0 school social workers (2016)180 (2017)
Eastern CapeData not yet availed
Northern CapeData not yet availed
North WestData not yet availed
MpumalangaData not yet availed

Table 2.

The ratio of school social worker recruitment per provincial education departments.

TIME FRAMESImmediate to Short Term
Medium Term
Long Term
MAJOR STEPSOrientation/Dialogue with Schools in Predetermined
Implementation in Predetermined PhasesFollow-up and Progress Analysis
Visit Schools
Set Workshops
Set Monitoring Timelines
Schools & District Offices (Mainstream, Special Schools, Resource Centres)Fully Formalised
Inclusive Education System in Place
Encounter teacher apathy and ignorance about what Inclusive Education is all aboutDistrict administration bottle necks, backlogs
and laisse faire approach (poor monitoring of progress)
Possible Extension of Time Frames or Re-shift to revised or new paradigm (both costly compared to success of the original model)

Table 3.

Transformation time frames of South Africa’s education towards inclusivity.

Adapted from: Education White Paper 6: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System (2001).

A Case in Context X - The context of generic socio-educational challenges – A case of severe cognitive disability due to prolonged use of psychedelic drugs.

“Drug use is punishable by banishment in my house, as for drug abuse, my child knows it is his death through my hands. I wish Thabo’s parents would do the same with this nyaope* problem in their household”. As a benefit of the inclusive education legislation based on the contributions of the international conventions contained in Table 3– a multi-disciplinary setting is a strict imperative where at least a social worker, if a psychiatrist or psychologist is not present has the ultimate prerogative to offer attentive listening therapy, followed by liaison with the latter two professionals for referral, guidance and advise. These multi-disciplinary guidelines are informed by the national Department of Education’s Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support of Learners [SIASL] done according to their levels of barriers’ FORM 1, 2, 3 and 4 ([14], p. 89) and The Education White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy [5].

*a concoction, comprising of anti-retroviral drugs and a powder substance extracted from inside flat screen television – is smoked to induce a psychedelic state. Highly addictive and exposes users to serious anti-social acts to financially sustain the habit.

Broad stakeholder engagement, aptly called multi-disciplinary support services teams is an international trend which aligns with the social ecology theory [7, 15, 16, 17].


3. The social ecology theory: background

The theory is derived from the concept of ecology, resident in the field of natural sciences. It has been philosophically moulded to fit the relevancy in the social sciences discipline. Swanepoel; in Davis and Snyman, ([18], p. 323) agree with Bookchin [19] when alluding to the concept of ecology, which is literally, the study of relationships between organisms and the environment they inhabit. The theory articulates the cross influences by the immediate and wider environment, which influences the contextualisation or impacting on social issues within the world of the school going child. Accordingly, this theory is further recognised as empirically relevant to the multi-facet nature of social problems. Within the context of this theory, the prevalence of ecological problems in society originates predominantly from various social problems, in particular from different forms of hierarchy and domination, especially as to how these problems are portrayed within capitalist societies [7, 18, 19]. Sharing of resources and the availability thereof has been the basic survival needs of all species. Naturally, an instinct for survival stimulates a drive to seek satiation.

In the context of this chapter, human beings depend on and benefit from economic sufficiency as to fulfil certain basic needs through wages earned from some a form of employment. Their interaction with fellow humans, at home, sites of learning, cultural settings, planning and the actualisation of personal and materialistic objectives all revolve around some type of expenditure. In simple terms, work is synonymous to survival, especially when it is represented by a decent job. The process of formal learning, attainment of educational qualifications and the ultimate search and the securement of reasonable income, is globally regarded as being essential to human survivalist behaviour. Citizens with disabilities, have this natural instinct too. The classroom, with or without learners with a disability, is a definitive microcosm of the human survival instinct, wherein young citizens are actively being equipped for a humane or democratised context of post-school economic participation and interactions by and for citizens with disabilities.

3.1 Social ecology and the democratic context of disability issues

To follow, are two portraits; namely Figures 1 and 2- these figures both endeavour to crystalise the relationship between what the teachers should offer today to learners, as a reflection of tomorrow’s citizens. In illuminating the democratised notion of the social ecology theory; the first diagram resembles the modern schooling subsystem, while the second one idealises visible efforts or collaborative engagements in the future by the employer subsystem for an equal society, which embraces citizens with a disability. Simply, future employers originate from the modern classroom. The modern teacher shapes the citizen of tomorrow. The teacher who delivers today’s curriculum with a spirit of both critical and sensitised discussions as a fundamental mode of communication, may strongly determine how future employers and employees engage one another on social issues relating to population diversity, workplace productivity, human rights and disability.

Figure 1.

Essential prerequisites for a modern democratic classroom.

Figure 2.

Imaged future democratic workplace.

As it is portrayed in Figure 1, the re-shaped inclusive education rationale is to entrench prerequisites relating to the creation of a democratic society within the context of disability, namely:

  • Equality empowerment to embrace the diversity of citizens across the South African population, through sensitivity towards disability issues, which should be visible.

  • Visible collaborative engagement between role players such as teachers, future employers (today’s students at schools and higher learning institutions), and disability rights advocacy groups as well as the legislative subsystem.

In re-imaging the current rationale, the applicability and relevance of issues or aspects relating to these prerequisites’ functionality and sustainability could be realised through the social ecological theory, where equal treatment of citizens would iconise empowering those who were previously stigmatised and marginalised due to their disability status. Within this theory, the focus falls on the critical social aspect for human survival through economic means, namely the struggle for realisable employment equity policy position and its visibility in the actual workplace, whether applicable to South Africa or the rest of the world.

The Employment Equity Act of No. 55 of 1998, amended 2014 (EEA), is a model legislative piece regarding reasonable accommodation to address the historically oppressive contexts confronted by citizens with disabilities [20]. The Reflection Box below attempts to demonstrate how schools as collaborating institutions could sustain engagements with workplaces of today through simulated workplace classroom assessment activities, to shape future Ubuntu-centric workplaces accommodative of diverse contexts of disability.

REFLECTION BOX (Visit Figure 1 and Figure 2 respectively)
What are the essential differences between the modern classroom and future democratic workplace concerning disability?
The classroom of today, is a catalyst for the democratic role-players (read A Story of Ubuntu in Action just below) especially iconized by visible (pedagogic) efforts to shape a just society by teachers. To illustrate, the removal of future barriers against equal workplace entry, such as the lack of visible verbal or signage pledges to accommodate job seekers with disabilities, should start in the modern classroom with intellectually interesting learning opportunities and formative assessment tasks which are ubuntu (sensitive to learner and teacher needs and diversity) orientated.
A Story of Ubuntu in Action
University of the Free State’s Schools Partnership Project (SPP) in South Africa
Initiated in 2011, the University of the Free State (UFS) Schools Partnership Project (SPP) aimed to contribute to better-performing schools in the basic education sector. Since its inception, the SPP has set itself the goal of meaningful change in the communities where it operates. The project is housed on and managed from our South Campus in Bloemfontein, South Africa and is funded year-to-year by Corporate Social Investment (CSI). Mentors are appointed to work with teachers, principals, and other members of the school management team (SMT) in specific schools in the Free State province and parts of the Eastern Cape. Mentors, for instance, work with teachers to strengthen their teaching skills and support them in the introduction of technology in the classroom. The goal of the SPP is to contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty in low-income, previously-disadvantaged communities, such as those in Botshabelo and Thaba ‘Nchu. This is accomplished through targeted interventions by mentors, who mentor and support teachers and SMT members in under-performing schools to excel at their core functions.
In turn, academically deserving students are empowered to make sufficient progress in order to access and complete their tertiary education. Once these graduates enter the workforce, they are able to plough back into their communities. We have seen a significant growth in the number of students entering the UFS from schools in this project.
The initiative is entirely funded by Corporate Social Investment initiatives, including companies such as Old Mutual and Sasol, to name a few. Without these supportive partners, the project would not be possible. SPP mentors make the trip to the different school clusters every Monday through Thursday during school terms, visiting schools and travelling an average of around 400 km each week. On Fridays and during school holidays, the mentors draw up new classroom content and create teaching resources to be used in project schools and beyond.
Adapted verbatim from: [21].

Schenck et al. [22] puts great emphasis on participatory community practice, which this chapter sees as synonymous to the philosophy of Ubuntu being evolved into a set of actionable events in the grassroots which directly benefit targeted community contexts. Nonetheless, by being actionable does not mean these events will become spontaneously sustainable, hence the contribution of the story within the reflection box above this is for the readership to gain both insights and consult such literature further for harvesting guidelines therein.

To elucidate further, a neo-inclusive education teacher can design a research assignment which stimulates students to visit the world of work via job advertisements in local, regional or national newspapers. The critical objective of this exploratory task would be to ascertain (quantify) how many job adverts have visible print or wheelchair symbols representation of universal employment equity efforts or policy towards the individuals with disabilities. Classroom-based debates (qualitative) emanating from this assignment would become openly student centred; thus, allowing these future citizens to re-image the ideal realm of a democratised world of work. Teachers in South Africa benefit from the Education White Paper 6; an inclusive education policy document which lecturers and education district officials recommend as an essential guidelines instrument [2]. Table 3 demonstrates how teachers can monitor their school’s inclusion status versus the policy prescripts from any starting point to the determinant evaluation point, namely, the year 2021.

Subsequently, Mhlongo et al. [16] and Mhlongo and Alexander [23], have asserted that the creation of a democratic culture is best achieved from vibrant classroom contexts. When a teacher ignores the promotion of a democratic culture in the modern classroom situations, the central assumption of the social ecology frame would view the current curriculum as unintentionally, thus perpetuating longstanding workplace discriminatory practices. In Figure 2 to follow below, we hope to have a modern teacher who does not eschew critical social transformation issues such as employment equity, in his/her lessons. A movement of actions towards embracing population diversity, as indicated by the arrows below; should emulate co-dependence or shared effort towards the same goal, not necessarily towards the same direction. That is, conflict of thoughts or actions should be accommodated; so long as it is critical, sensitive, constructivist and visible.

We have identified three critical cogs for creating a democratic workplace of the future, which are:

  • The modern teacher whose postmodernist pedagogic role is realised by designing and applying inclusive lesson plans in the classroom, irrespective of the subject being taught; more often than not, with the notion of democracy being deeply embedded in critical classroom practices.

  • The modern classroom would serve as an appropriate catalyst for nourishing a culture of democracy whose students represent future employers.

  • Finally, we have noted that the desire for visible employment equity policy and treatment for the historically marginalised citizens should be a shared vision of the immediate role players. We hold the notion that, if it is visible, it denotes success of the imaged objectives emanating from an inclusionary modern classroom- this classroom representative of a teaching and learning context responsive to the policy imperatives of democratising or transforming schools vis a vis Education White Paper 6’s prescribed time-lines (see Table 3)

The relationship between moral citizenship goals envisaged by the modern curriculum and the actualisation of thereof, certainly demands a shift. Hence, this chapter is governed by a strong recommendation for re-curriculation towards a postmodernist inclusive education pedagogy, aligned with promoting a democratic culture in the modern classroom. According to Mhlongo and Alexander [23] disability sensitivity initiatives, in inclusive education pedagogy means that teachers remain constantly aware that future adults are represented by children in the current classroom, especially in the job market.

From the social ecology perspective, the arrows within Figure 2 are reflective of the individual subsystem movement representative of the dynamism of a democratic society where constructive intellectual conflict is reasonable and resolvable. We can think of different political parties who tend to disagree, yet all have good intentions for their constituencies. Ecologically, classroom pedagogy to promote workplace democratisation should be found on the same principle of critical, co-dependent, yet fruitful debate. If Citizen A (employer) identifies cost constraints of employing a suitably qualified candidate with a disability (Citizen B), such as the construction of an elevator shaft; fair discriminatory actions are allowable within South African law by the Employment Equity Act No.55 of 1998 [20] under the principle of reasonable accommodation. Hence, a neo-inclusive education teacher is the crucial source of relaying future adult lessons that inclusivity of disability in the workplace is not mandatory and thus remains a sensitive area of conflict between employers, advocates of disability and citizens’ rights, such as the Association for People with Disabilities (APD), Equality Education and the Human Rights Commission.

Through this theoretical frame, this chapter strives to emulate and sustain South Africa’s inclusive education messenger namely the education policy document, Education White Paper 6 ([2], p. 9). Teachers, both in training and in the classroom should become the rightful catalysts of re-shaping how all citizens, as present students and future adults; promote the social values of democratisation through recognition and embrace diversity, specific to disability issues.


4. Re-imaging the philosophy of inclusive education in South Africa

Since this chapter aims to contribute towards the moulding of a visionary teacher, who yearns to practically re-shape the education of students, an inclusive education mindset leaning towards a culture of democracy and citizenship empowerment through classroom pedagogy is openly monotonised. An ideal neo-inclusive education teacher would think, and plan to act beyond the confines of modern rules. A postmodernist approach to the present challenges, simply means to avail radical strategies and stimulate hope for the visible improvement of difficult social conditions which humans have lived under for centuries. To democratise, is thus a process to re-mould the prevailing pedagogy. A reasonable starting point is for the ideal teacher to shape the delivery of the prescribed South African curriculum, in such a way that it recognises prevailing life challenges as experienced by students. A good starting point is to design inclusive lessons in the classroom. An ideal inclusive education context would assume a shape of realisable democracy, where both learners and teachers are sensitive towards diversity and actively interact to identify trends which delimits the equal participation of all citizens. Certainly, a teacher with a democratised mindset, naturally views learners from a lens of future adults in a world not polarised by stereotypes of race, gender, economic wealth and most importantly disability.

Please visit ASSESSMENT ACTIVITY, just after conclusion of this chapter.

Accordingly, a postmodernist readership is envisaged which could possibly represent the school setting as a social subsystem. This chapter idealises teachers who are both sensitive and innovative when tackling the socio-educational context of disability in a contemporary South Africa. in this way, teachers would pedagogically reflect and contribute in successfully transforming the image of inclusive education, as visibly owned and applied across all subjects offered in the classroom. These teachers, however are not the sole prominent catalysts of a democratised future. Announced in brief below, are the other role players who should interact or engage with other social subsystems to entrench a culture of democracy.

4.1 Prominent role players who should engage in democratisation

A long list of social subsystems can be availed by readers, beyond the limit chosen to be discussed in this subsection. Since our focus is on the socio-educational democratisation of disability as a social subsystem; three additional subsystems are viewed as available to directly play either a helpful or delimiting role, namely; the schooling system, the job market and the laws of the country. Teachers represent the first social ecology subsystem; while employers who attract suitable job seekers via advertisements as well as offering job interviews, recommendations for promotion and in-service training in the workplace are iconic of the job market subsystem. The last social subsystem to be critiqued, is the laws which specifically promote equality through equity in the workplace and economic empowerment through availability of entrepreneurism or shareholding opportunities in both medium and large enterprises.

The following subsections focus on aspects important to the democratisation of6engagements by succinctly labelling it as collaborative engagements as outlined by key social subsystems synopsised above- the re-imaging of disability, especially through empowerment and equality are crucial to this process. We will start by elaborating on principles essential for the creation of a vibrant democratic culture.

4.2 Principles underpinning the creation of a democratised culture

Discussion of social issues is the most critical step towards shaping plans and solidifying social transformation. Primarily, the involvement of all role players directly affected by these issues cannot be ignored, since recognition of diversity is the cornerstone of all democratised collaborative engagements. During the South Africa of the 1980’s, the founding of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Democratic Alternative in South Africa (IDASA) was stimulated by role players who saw it as politically futile and immoral to hold negotiations in parliament, about the majority of citizens who did not even have one representative or voice ([17], p. 222 and 234). Certainly, the value of collaborative engagement across race, gender, medically classified human ability (disability), creed, education and economic strata still remain a highly politicised yet vital element of any nation’s desire to create a just society. Appropriately, it befits the objectives of this chapter to promote democracy as a positive contagion of future adults, who are now children in the modern classrooms.

Hence this chapter promotes the assumption that a reflective stance should also form the basis of the discussions; where recorded narrations from the past, serve to emulate history of the social issues either magnified as similar or peculiar to those currently under review. Should that democratised ideal become realised, then these discussions can be classified as vibrant instead of just being a mere representation of a nation’s diverse population.

4.3 Population diversity as a cornerstone of democratisation

Perpetuation of an image of otherness, was viewed by Fanon [10] as the oppressive systematisation of superiority stereotypes, namely colonialism. Thus, this inhumanly supremacist licentiateship to dominate others, threatens to systematically persists against citizens with disabilities in both the most prevalent areas of socio-economic competency, that is, in various institutions of learning and the workplaces. As a modern social science venture to magnify history’s inhumane trends, Mhlongo and Alexander [16] conducted a research in the Free State province, South Africa; which yielded a recommendation for a strong move towards reciprocating interactions between the job seeker population with a disability and the employers, who usually opt to use print media to advertise posts. Certainly, a socially impartial interaction would be through discussions, monitoring of modern pedagogic and employment trends, and availing alternative innovative frameworks by role-players intent on promoting a democratised diverse society. For example; a hotline or telephonic inquiry platform could be invited from the designated historically marginalised population of job seekers with a disability to improve the employers’ methods of attracting them as qualified job applicants and potential employees. A broad stakeholder participation platform such as a union representative contributing transformative suggestions and pledging to monitor the implementation or further discussion of such, goes a long way as an reassurance of efforts to promote workplace diversity. Through such recommended progressive measures, the worrisome employment equity trends indicative of mass employer insensitivity to the instinctual need for economic participation for the job seeker citizens with a disability, could be averted in the future. Consequently, ideal classroom practices could be of assistance to shape future employers, now the present child at any South African school through a democratised teacher.

Mhlongo and Alexander [15, 16, 23] have demonstrated how the historically polarised economic participation context has been found to be showing mixed signs of employment equity trends of stagnation and regression. The assertion made just above is in consideration of Table 2’s quest for an ideal year 2021 transformative timeline which is best monitored by a broader stakeholder engagement based on the democratic ethos of partner collaboration within both school and workplace structures. This generally, negative employment equity trend regarding disability indicated a fragmented relationship between the employing and designate job seeker subsystems despite the review year of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) under the guise of Decent Work Agenda [3] in 2015. This lack of collaborative engagements between stakeholders thus threatens the possible achievement of some of the current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or worse, all the SDGs by the year 2030 in most of South Africa’s workplaces and schools in offering social justice redress regarding contexts of disability [24]. The first MDG, contextualises the creation of decent work for all citizens of an employable age (15–65 years old citizens). Thus, a critical need for a visible framework promoting a culture of democracy across and beyond the curriculum via inclusive education was found to be both a morally sensitive issue and empirically valid discourse which explores disability issues in South Africa [15].

Certainly, an influx of teachers with a democratised outlook regarding the future of the learners as probable employers, post the year 2020 and beyond should flow out of modern universities. These teachers can aid in contributing postmodernist ideas, voices and resources to shape the conscience of these employers; especially regarding the polarising contexts impacting on the economic well-being of the population with a disability. Progressive pedagogic, however, should always be preceded by visible efforts.

The denial of economic participation opportunity, through employment, for educated people with a disability has since become a key aspect polarising the ideal for a socially just relationship between employees and historically marginalised citizens. As authors, we recommend the establishment of critical dialogue forum as an innovative modern pedagogical delivery tool, which could aid a postmodernity minded teacher to succeed in shaping lesson topics and stimulate debate by learners on disability issues.

Throughout centuries, countries who are today regarded as democratically progressive have contributed narratives about disability, both hurtful and encouraging ones. The 16th century history of France, as well as the various human rights laws promulgated the past decades are invited to aid in re-shaping the inclusive education discipline of South Africa, so that it can have a vibrant democratised aura.


5. The international history of efforts towards citizenship equality

The French Revolution was a period of political tyranny which reached its first climax in the year 1789, epitomised by the cold-hearted images of publicly displayed beheadings via the guillotine [11]. A humane alternative, aptly called democracy was born, hence the nationalist credo of France, Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. Contrastingly, the term aristocracy, is synonymous to supremacy serve as both the typographic (grammatical) and social justice antonym of the noun democracy. Nevertheless, modern teachers need to shape educational efforts which visibly shun and discourage aristocratic tendencies, where citizens who are “medically fit” assume a socio-economic status of superiority over the population with disabilities. It is because of such socio-educational polarities by role-players in positions of power, that Mahlomaholo [25] raises concerns regarding democratic politics, as a validator of community cultural wealth. Vibrant classroom discussions on disability, productivity and employment equity trends, could do well to realise Mahlomaholo (ibid) and Fanon’s [10] vision of citizens being active in participating to re-image and sustain visibly humane societies.

In the modern South African context (post-1994) like anywhere across the world, democracy is paralleled with political freedom [10, 25, 26, 27]. Collaborative engagements between social subsystems to address pertinent social problems naturally promote a culture of democracy. It remains without doubt that in an educational setting inculcation of this culture should shape the daily normal interactions between teachers and students via the various subject offerings and the inclusive planning of lessons. As authors, we opt for the convenience of borrowing from the politically rich history of the French national credo to clarify the concept political freedom. To say, in a democratic state which is perceived to be a societal or fraternal ideal for the liberation of the social class, comprising of the majority poor segment of the population, must exist, is to create a public platform for the equal treatment of all citizens as such. Through this notion, the assumption is that every citizen share in the wealth of the country of their birth irrespective of heredity or social class, by casting a vote to politically decide (elect) who will proportionally represent his/her ideals in parliament. The presence of a candidate who is a genuine representation of disability identity on a ballot, is hard to apply in South Africa, considering the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities finds it hard to nominate a genuine disability candidate.

Surely, strong parallels exists between aspirations and the experiences of the political leaders within the post-1990 era in South Africa and those of the post 1790’s France. Furthermore, we would like to entertain the contentious social justice status of the power and the right to vote, which has been magnified and critiqued from the stance that it does not scientifically and necessarily so, represent economic freedom. To attain economic freedom and eliminate the perennial reliance on monetary and food social grants as an entrenched stereotype towards disability population in South Africa, we have outlined numerous human rights laws, in a chronological fashion to emphasise the international historical efforts towards creating a socially just society (see Table 3). Ideal adults in a postmodern South Africa, would display a visible strive to reduce polarising aristocratic trends by citizens who hold strong stereotypes intent to demean the human survival concept of economic participation and productive labour for capable citizens with a disability. Hence, modern classrooms should stimulate lessons which simulate the accentuation of reciprocating or collaborative engagements among social subsystems by future adults- this in turn may expedite the delivery of a democratising pedagogy. For these reasons, globally influential policies and laws via conventions and colloquia are tabulated below, mostly from the United Nations [28] contributions, specifically vested by the International Labour Organisation [29]. The latter mentioned issues relate to the aspect of empowerment via critical collaborative engagement, hence the context of disability could be understood within a democratic culture (see Table 4).

Fundamental Human RightsYear
Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention (No.87) hosted by the International Labour Organisation1948
Employment Services Convention (No. 88) held by the International Labour Organisation1948
Universal declaration of Human Rights, by the member states of the United Nations.1949
Rights to Organise an Collective Bargaining Convention, hosted by the International Labour Organisation (No.98)1949
Equal Remuneration Convention, organised by the International Labour Organisation (No.100)1951
Discrimination Convention [Employment and Occupation] (No.111)1958
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination1965
Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons convened by the United Nations1975
Human Resources Convention (No. 142) held by the International Labour Organisation1975
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women held by the International Labour Organisation1979
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment [Disabled Persons] Convention (No. 159) hosted by the International Labour Organisation.1983
The Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities is a document which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.1993
The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action, a globally acclaimed paper adopted by the World Conference on Special Needs Education: Access and Quality by UNESCO, leading to the document Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education.1994
Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, derived from the World Summit on Social Development held by the International Labour Organisation.1998
Comprehensive Development Framework drawn up by the World Bank1999
Millennium Development Movement and Goals, organised jointly by the United Nations and International Labour Organisation.2000
Inclusive Education and Education for All: a Challenge and a Vision: Draft report, adopted by UNESCO.2000
Human Resources Development Convention (No.195) held by the International Labour Organisation.2004
Employment Strategies for Decent Work Country Programmes: Concepts, Approaches and Tools for Implementing the Global Employment Agenda (Session 295th).2006

Table 4.

The influence of fundamental human rights on modern legislative framework.

Sources: ILO [29] & UN [28].

These historical developments on international labour law discipline played a crucial role in the formulation of a stable foundation for the South African labour legislative framework [1, 2, 20, 28, 29]. By recognising the value of the above international conventions, South Africa’s legal framework has some policies and recommendations which represent a transformation towards a democratic culture across and within its fundamental socio-economic domains, including the school and the workplace. The ILO has directly assisted several countries in implementing employment equity policy design and inspections. Both the Ministries of the Czech Republic, in 2003 and Brazil, in 1995 launched workplace equality legislations and amendments under the leadership and mentorship of the ILO [29], p. 60. It is therefore not acceptable for any state anywhere in the world to claim that the backlogs in its employment equity projects cannot be remediated reciprocally, with outside expert assistance. An interesting issue to note is how the Department of Labour in South Africa has provided guidelines literature in the form of Technical Assistance Guidelines on the Employment of People with Disabilities (TAG) [12]. An interesting area of future research is: how efficient does the TAG document get activated through workplace employment equity inspections, as an Agenda 2030 tool?


6. Conclusion

The role of teachers in the process of democratising their communities through the creation of lesson plans and actions, accommodative of diversity was central to the discussion within this chapter. Both national and international legislative guidelines, imperatives, targes and influences, most specifically, the United Nations’ Agenda 2030, elaborated upon. Contexts of disability were developed to reside within a case labelled X, to stimulate the readers’ critical reflection and as preparation for the assessment activity hereunder. In a nutshell, the chapter’s objective was to support modern teachers to respond to a postmodern or future world where both classrooms and workplaces as well as stakeholders therein. The same objective aimed to intensify collaborations through transformative engagements, with the hope of sustaining both previously achieved social justice milestones, as well as the forthcoming Agenda 2030 milestone.

Assessment Guideline: To successfully complete this activity, consult A Case in Context Y
  • A Case in Context X: Lesson planning or design cannot remain rigid but has to be flexible to accommodate specific or generic issues and contextual challenges.

  1. ASSESSMENT THEME: Creating a Sustainable Democratic Classroom Context

Assessment Objective: You are expected to academically demonstrate a practical capability to discuss elements of an inclusive lesson plan and innovate tabular template to accommodate several learners with a disability in a classroom context. A scientific approach is thus strongly recommended with an introduction, body, conclusion, bibliography and Annexure (lesson plan template).
Research and Design: Consult the education policy documents in South Africa as listed below
To Do: Discuss (300–350 words) elements of an inclusive lesson plan and later diagrammatise (Annexure) it to recognise the diversity of South Africa’s population in a classroom; with specific focus on children with a disability whose learning space is within a mainstream schooling system. The policy documents below should be consulted, and thereafter be appropriately (scientifically) arranged as part of your bibliography.
  1. South African Schools Act no. 84 of 1996 (1996)

  2. White Paper on Integrated National Disability Strategy. Office of the Deputy President. (1997)

  3. National Education Policy Investigation (NEPI): Support Services. (1992)

  4. Consultative Paper no.1 on Special Needs Education: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System, First Steps. (1999)

  5. Report of the National Commission on Special Needs in Education and Training and National Committee for Education Support Services (NCSNET/NCESS). (1997)

  6. Draft Education White Paper 5: Special Needs Education – Building an Inclusive Education and Training System. (2000)

  7. Education White Paper 6: Special Needs Education – Building an Inclusive Education and Training System (2001)

  8. Draft National Strategy on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support. Additional Policy Document to White Paper 6. (2005)

  9. Guidelines for Inclusive Learning Programmes. (2005)

  10. Directorate Inclusive Education. Conceptual and Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of Inclusive Education: District-Based Support Teams. (2005)

  11. Directorate Inclusive Education Conceptual and Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of Inclusive Education: Special Schools as Resource Centres. (2005)

  12. Directorate Inclusive Education. Conceptual and Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of Inclusive Education: Full-Service Schools. (2006)

  13. Technical Assistance Guidelines on Employment of People with Disabilities (2003)

6.1 Key Concepts

Aristocracy: The Concise Oxford English Dictionary: 11th Edition (2009) (source abbreviated COED) (electronic version) classifies this word as a noun (plural aristocracies) [treated as singular or plural]; where a class of society comprising people of noble birth with hereditary titles. A system of government in which power is held by the nobility. Derived from 15th century French word, aristocratie, evolved from Greek aristokratia, from aristos ‘best’ and kratia ‘power’.

Democracy: French origin démocratie, through Latin from Greek demokratia, from demos ‘the people’ and -kratia ‘power, rule’. COED (2009) recognises democracy, as a noun (plural democracies) which denotes a government wherein the people have a voice in the exercise of power, normally through elected representatives. In a democratic state, control of a group or the entire population of a country is held or decided by the majority of its members. During the 16th century France, specifically between the years 1787 and 1799; a political revolution spurred a spirit of patriotism which was mingled with open terror against and between fellow countrymen.

Democratic culture: Creating an atmosphere which recognises population diversity. Citizens from different backgrounds are consulted about issues which affect them, thus become part of shaping the future plans, by contributing ideas an experiences, especially through dialogic engagement.

Empowerment: Creating opportunities for all citizens, such as employment, while ensuring no barriers are unjustly allowed thus preventing other population groups from participating in activities. Job advertisements which do not state th recognition of people with disabilities have a discouraging effect on job seekers from this population group.

Engagement: Discussions, between citizens from diverse backgrounds. A sense of equality, when sharing ideas and future plans, is established to eliminate an atmosphere where other people feel that their ideas are oppressed or undermined. Hence, an opportunity to speak, and listen, while recordings of proceedings is maintained is an essential part of a democratic culture of collaborative engagement. Follow-up or subsequent discussions allows for sustenance of dialogue.

Special Needs Analysis: Countries perform a needs analysis according to the recommendations of documents such as Salamanca Five Years On. Introduction and Inclusive Education (United Nations: 1999), the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education [29], The Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities [28].

Inclusive Education System: integrating learners with disabilities into the normal classroom after a needs analysis has been conducted to determine the severity of disability and availability of “accessibility” promoting resources in mainstream schools, such as concrete-cast ramps for wheelchair mobility. Engagement in dialogue between schools and parents/community regarding disability issues and modification of resources encouraged is highly encouraged, such as relocating a classroom from first floor to the ground floor to permit mobility and accessibility.

Mainstream Education System: The traditional schooling where classrooms are inhabited by non-disabled learners, opposite of special need school or classroom. Key distinction of the special needs school and classroom is where the environment is equipment and human resource intensive. A physiotherapist, professional nurse, social worker, educational psychologist, occupational therapist, clinical psychologist complement the daily work done by the specific subject teachers to provide support the learners with disabilities. Wheelchairs and stairs with handling rails form a common part of the latter schooling system.

Neo-inclusive education: classroom actions initiated by the teacher which promote respect for population diversity, and realisation of this vision in the future, without compromising the strict pre-determined document-controlled aspects of curriculum delivery demanded by her content subject, be it physical sciences or geography.

Post modernism: A philosophical stance which promotes the assumption of looking beyond the demands and pressures of the present deliverables. A teacher who strives to meet pre-determined academic goals of her subject throughout the year; to complete the syllabus, is in a modernist mindset. In contrast, completing the current syllabus with the notion of shaping democracy-minded students is postmodernist.

6.2 Recommended readings via the Internet

  1. Guidelines for Supporting and Referring Learners Experiencing Barriers to Learning for Special Education. By Liphapang M. 2005. Free State Department of Education. Bloemfontein: Government Printers.

  2. Draft National Strategy on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support. Additional Policy Document to White Paper 6. Department of Education. 2005. Pretoria: Government Printers.

  3. White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy. Office of the Deputy President. 1997. Pretoria: Government Printers.

  4. Guidelines for Inclusive Learning Programmes. Department Basic of Education. 2005. Pretoria: Government Printers.

  5. Directorate Inclusive Education. Conceptual and Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of Inclusive Education: District-Based Support Teams. Department of Basic Education. 2005. Pretoria: Government Printers.

  6. Directorate Inclusive Education Conceptual and Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of Inclusive Education: Special Schools as Resource Centres. Department of Basic Education. 2005. Pretoria: Government Printers.

  7. Directorate Inclusive Education. Conceptual and Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of Inclusive Education: Full-Service Schools. Department of Basic Education. 2005. Pretoria: Government Printers.

  8. Technical Assistance Guidelines on the Employment of People with Disabilities. [5]. Pretoria.

  9. Mhlongo, D. and Alexander, G. 2013. Creating an enabling employment environment for school-leavers with a physical disability in the Free State province. Dissertation for Master’s degree. Faculty of Education. University of the Free State. Bloemfontein. For direct inquiries: and


Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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  2. 2. Department of Basic Education. 2000. Education White Paper 6: Special Needs Education – Building an Inclusive Education and Training System. Pretoria: Government Printers
  3. 3. United Nations’ Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. 2020. From Accessed 62 2020 January 14
  4. 4. Dhupelia-Mesthrie, U. 2007. Aboveground Organisations and Activities. The revival of the Natal Indian congress. In, The Road to Democracy in South Africa. Volume 2 (1970–1980). South African Democracy Education Trust. University of South Africa Press: Pretoria
  5. 5. Office of the Deputy President. 1997. White Paper on Integrated National Disability Strategy. Parliament of the Republic of South Africa
  6. 6. World Health Organisation. 2001. International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Geneva
  7. 7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 08 Accessed 2019 March 15
  8. 8. Donald D, Lazarus S and Lolwana P. 2002. 2nd Edition. Educational Psychology in Social Context. Cape Town: Oxford University Press
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  10. 10. Ngwena, C. 2004. Equality, Disability and the employment Equity Act: Filling in the Gaps. The Inaugural Lecture, Faculty of Law, University of the Free State. Bloemfontein
  11. 11. Mahlomaholo, S. 2012. Validating community cultural wealth: Toward sustainable empowering learning environments. In, Culture, education and community: Expressions of the postcolonial imagination. Edited by Lavia, J and Mahlomaholo, S. Palgrave MacMillan. New York
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  14. 14. Department of Basic Education. 2005. Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support of Learners. Education White Paper 6. Pretoria: Government Printers
  15. 15. Mhlongo, D. and Alexander, G. 2014. A framework to enhance the sustenance of decent employment efforts for the youth population with a disability. An unpublished article. Faculty of Education. University of the Free State. Bloemfontein. For direct inquiries: and
  16. 16. Mhlongo, D., Alexander, G. and Hlalele, D. 2014. The Decent Work Agenda in South Africa: Findings from interrogating the Millennium Development Goals trends regarding physical disability. Faculty of Education. University of the Free State. Bloemfontein. An unpublished article submitted to the International Journal of Educational Development (2014). For direct inquiries: and
  17. 17. Morris, M., Nasson, B., Young, J., Linnegar, J., Joubert E and Gool B. 2004. Every step of the way. The journey to freedom in South African. Human Sciences Research Council Press and Cambridge University Press. Cape Town
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  19. 19. Bookchin, M. 2006. Social Ecology and Communalism. Oakland, USA. AK Press
  20. 20. Employment Equity Act of No. 55 of 1998, amended 2014. 2015. Government Communications and Information Systems. Pretoria
  21. 21. University of the Free State – Corporate Social Responsibility (UFS - CSR). 2020. Accessed on 2020 October 3
  22. 22. Schenck, R., Nel, H., and Louw, H. 2010. Introduction to Participatory Community Practice. University of South Africa Press. Pretoria
  23. 23. Mhlongo, D and Alexander, G. 2013. Creating an enabling employment environment for school-leavers with a physical disability in the Free State province. Dissertation for Masters’ degree: Psychology of Education – Inclusive Education. Faculty of Education. University of the Free State. Bloemfontein. For direct inquiries: and
  24. 24. Ngwena, C. 2004. Equality of People with Disabilities in the workplace: An overview of the emergence of disability as a human rights issue. Journal for Juridical Science, 29(2): 167–197
  25. 25. Freire, P. 1972. Pedagogy of the oppressed. Penguin. Hammondsworth
  26. 26. Freire, P. 1998. Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy and civic courage. Rowman and Littlefield. Lanham
  27. 27. United Nations. 2008. Millennium Development Goals. New York. From Accessed on 2020 January 14
  28. 28. United Nations’ Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. 2020. From Accessed on 2020 January 14
  29. 29. University of the Free State –Corporate Social Responsibility (UFS-CSR). 2020. Accessed on 2020 October 3

Written By

Gregg Alexander and Duma Mhlongo

Submitted: September 25th, 2020 Reviewed: February 5th, 2021 Published: May 20th, 2021