The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Faculty of Education hosted the Irish Minister of State for Disabilities in the Department of Children, Disability, Equality Integration, Anne Rabbitte, on a site visit to the Soweto Campus.
The Faculty has a strong flagship programme in childhood education and with the addition of the Centre for Neurodiversity (CND@UJ)), launched last year, the University is strengthening its social impact goals. The Centre aims to address the neurodevelopmental learning needs of children and youth.
“Our new Vice-Chancellor’s vision is for excellence and stature that has societal impact. What we do as a University must make a difference in the lives of our South African population. That is something we take seriously in the Education Faculty and want to promote in all facets of our work particularly through this Centre,” said Prof Nadine Peterson, Executive Dean.
Minister Rabbitte visited the Centre on Thursday, 16 March 2023 as part of her South African tour to strengthen ties. She stressed the importance of using educational psychology in the community and putting in place mechanisms to help support and educate the learners, teachers and students who are the next generation of educators.
“Unless you do it that way, children will get missed, parents will not be supported and there will end up being gaps in education and support. I believe in equality, the right to education, participation and inclusion in the early years. When we get the children in the proper pathway they end up finishing their education.”
The Minister spoke about the need for tolerance in society. She added that in Ireland persons with disabilities struggled to find and retain work.
“As children transition out of education, parents don’t know what wonderful support is available for them. Children don’t know how to ask, that’s the same challenges the global north and south face. Early intervention is key, the younger we can identify and diagnose, the better the outcome, the fewer gaps and better solutions.”
Professor Boitumelo Diale, UJ Vice-Dean: Teaching and Learning & Centre Coordinator expressed the need to meet the needs of all people including those with disabilities.
“When learning needs are met, people can make a difference in society. We aim to touch South Africa as a whole. The issue of neurodiversity is big in this country.”
Prof Diale added that plans included having mobile buses to provide their services to communities in different provinces.