“They discluded me”: possibilities and limitations of children’s participation in inclusion research in South Africa
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Beyond realising the right of children and young people to be heard in routine interactions, there is much scope for research with (rather than on) children. This is particularly pertinent in the field of inclusive education where there is potential for the voice of children and young people to be a lever for change and to promote inclusive practice. South African inclusion research has, however, given little attention to the perspectives and experiences of children and young people. In advocating for research to listen to the voice of insiders – children who have experienced inclusion and exclusion, this paper explores the dilemma of inclusion research. Selecting some children to participate in inclusion research on the basis of disability or other marker of difference undermines the inclusive endeavour. But without their perspective, we may never expose excluding and marginalising practices and attitudes, even within inclusive contexts. Four research initiatives which highlight this dilemma are described, concluding that the dilemma is unresolvable, but that the ongoing debate is valuable. Ultimately the call is for research that is both participatory and emancipatory, resulting in the reduction of exclusionary cultures and practices and the inclusion of young voices in the discourse that produces inclusion knowledge.