Achieving Inclusive Education In Rivers State

Inclusive Education which is a situation all children including those with disabilities are kept in the same school and in the same classroom has become  part of a global agenda that reaffirms complete inclusion of all students with learning difficulties.

According to UNESCO, inclusion is “a dynamic strategy to constructively reacting to students’ variety and recognising individual differences not as problems but as possibilities for enhancing learning.”

It also entails embracing a comprehensive vision of education for all by addressing the diverse needs of learners, especially those at risk of marginalisation and exclusion (UNESCO. 2005).

 From the above assertions, Inclusive Education represents the belief that all learners can learn and should have equal access to education while offering real learning opportunities for children with special needs who would have traditionally been excluded.

Despite its main laudable objectives of identifying and enrolling children with disabilities in regular schools and providing them with effective academic support,Inclusive education has been difficult to achieve in Rivers State.

This according to a Special Needs Educationist Consultant, Rev. Linda Amadi Oparaeli is majorly because special needs teachers allowance are not being paid in Rivers State.

In ensuring Education for All (EFA) the National Policy on Education provides that inclusive education be integrated into public schools under the Universal Basic Education scheme (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2013),knowing fully well that the implementers of this policy are the teachers, government should therefore ensure that they are well paid.

Apart from poor facilities, epileptic power supply poor renumeration, Rev. Oparaeli said that for Inclusive Education to be achieved  Government should look into the  concerns of Special Needs Educationists in Rivers.

She noted that non-payment of teachers special needs allowance as obtainable in other states has discouraged more teachers from venturing into Special Needs Education thereby affecting the number of personnel required to implement inclusive education policy in the state.

The Special Needs Educationist who harped on the urgent need to encourage teachers with special needs qualification so as to get more personnel to handle children with disabilities in our schools revealed to National Network Newspaper that Rivers State is the only state in Nigeria that does not pay special needs teachers allowance.

She disclosed that there is an alarming number of children with disabilities in our schools who have remained unidentified as such cases can only  be identifiedand addressed by proper diagnosis of special needs teachers.

Describing the situation as worrisome, Rev. Oparaeli informed that lack of motivation accounts for why there are few of these professionals  in the state, regretting that many teachers are being discouraged from going into special needs Education programme.

“In every state in Nigeria, special teachers allowance are being paid by the state government which is not done in Rivers State.

So without encouraging teachers, with the allowances, we will not have more teachers venture into this area of special education and this implies that there will be lack of professional personnel to attend to children with special needs”, she noted.

She explained that the issue of disability and teaching children with disabilities is a serious matter that requires the involvement of critical stakeholders in the society and called on them to support the government in ensuring that Inclusive Education is achieved.

Rev. Oparaeli who maintained that Education is an empowering tool  that gives ability to people with disabilities, pointed out that the best way to empower a special child is not just to give such a child Education, but to give it in an environment where Inclusivity is propagated.

“It is the only thing that can give them voice and make them able to compete favourably in the society, when children with disabilities are denied access to education, they are disabled the more”, she said.

She averred that it is the role of government to ensure that Inclusive Education is achieved while ensuring that children living with disabilities access their rights to education.

Chronicling what it takes to teach children with special needs, she informed that most of the schools lack sign teachers and wondered how a child with hearing impairment who requires total communication such as signing, talking using facial gestures, and  gesticulation all at the same time can effectively learn in government schools where there are no sign teachers.

The Special Needs Educationist consultant also identified training as an essential way of motivating special needs teachers, regretting that professional trainings for these special teachers are lacking in the state.

She opined that achieving Inclusive Education is possible but only when government takes up the responsibility of taking care of the people whose job is to educate children with special needs while ensuring that all the facilities required for providing such education are made available in public schools.

She called on Rivers State Government to look into the special needs teachers allowance stressing that it is very necessary and a great motivational factor that can  encourage more teachers to go into this special professional training.

Explaining how difficult it is to teach children with special needs, she argued that special needs teachers’ allowance helps to motivate the teachers to pass learning across to these people who require so much patience to handle.

“This is imperative because the issue of teaching children with disabilities require special skills that can only be provided by teachers with special needs training.

The only way Inclusive Education can be achieved is by ensuring that there are more teachers who are professionals in Special Needs Education” she stated. A visit to most public schools also known as government schools revealed that primary, secondary and even tertiary Institutions in Rivers State lack teachers  with special needs Education as well as facilities required for effective inclusive education delivery.

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