By Anna Ingwafa
There is still a national outcry that the educational needs of a significant number of children with disabilities and special learning needs are not yet being addressed. At the moment, the needs of children with disabilities and learning difficulties are met through special classes in mainstream schools or special schools.
However, access to both special classes and special schools is limited due to a shortage of places, said the Outapi Special School Principal Frans Kandjulu at the launch of the Education for All and Aids Awareness Week at Ogongo in Omusati Region.
Education for all was commemorated under the theme “Quality Education to end Exclusion”.
“Today if we want to talk proudly about quality education to end exclusion, then we should mean it. Inclusive education focuses on how to remove blocks or barriers that prevent learners from participating fully in education.
“In other words, the concept of inclusive education implies that learners with special needs be accorded the right to be educated in the mainstream formal education programmes and ensure that these learners receive comprehensive compensatory assistance to address their learning needs,” said Kandjulu.
He stressed that the Government places specific responsibilities on the Ministry of Education to ensure that children and adults with different learning disabilities are integrated into mainstream education as stated in the national policy on disability.
“Hence at this stage the voice of the Government of the Republic of Namibia should be clear and understood by everyone that the Government is to introduce a policy on inclusive education in order to realise the right for all children and adults with disabilities and learning difficulties.”
Kandjulu appreciated the Government’s plan that each region will have a special school for children with disabilities and learning difficulties in order to address the need for quality education to end exclusion, and to strive towards education for all and for the realization of Vision 2030.
Despite the Government’s efforts, Kandjulu noted that there is need for policies such as: national early childhood development, national gender policy, school health policy, policy on teenage pregnancies, HIV/Aids policy, policy on disabilities and information for self-reliance and development, a policy framework for libraries and allied information agencies for Namibia, to be implemented.
Moreover, the role of parents will not be ignored, according to the educationalist.
“Parents are the most important components in education. Therefore, their participation in the learner’s school activities will foster positive communication between home and school. The special schools can play a major role by making both parents of disabled and non-disabled children aware or understand the concept of inclusive education, as a move towards the attainment of access, quality, equity and equality in education.
“The joint venture of parents and other stakeholders to fight illiteracy among our society indeed will drive our community towards quality education to end exclusion with the term education for all.”
He called on the parents to be sensitized, motivated, guided and counselled by social workers to assist their children in overcoming their behaviour in order to promote changes in education and be informed where appropriate to participate in the school social and educational activities.
Kandjulu urged people to raise awareness to avoid negative attitudes and stereotypes, especially among parents, guardians, teachers and peers.
“The challenge for Government would be to train teachers and personnel and to provide the basic teaching and learning facilities that can cater for the needs of children with special needs in mainstream school.”
He concluded that there is a need to come up with dictionaries and syllabuses for sign language, for hearing impaired persons.