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By Yetunde Ayobami Ojo
A cross section of civil society groups have charged stakeholders in the education sector to fashion out an inclusive educational system that would address the interest of children with dissabilities.
The groups have also decried the lack of support for this class of children in 31 inclusive primary and secondary schools in Lagos State even as they urged the government to conduct a comprehensive institutional and manpower audit of all inclusive schools in order to determine specific and general needs of the schools.
These were some of the submissions made in Lagos at a media parley at the behest of the Disability Policy and Advocacy Initiative (DPAI), in collaboration with Lagos State Civil Society Partnership (LACSOP) with the support of State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI), Lagos office.
According to chairman and assistant secretary of DPAI, Mr. Uche Ekugum and Mrs. Emmanuella Akinola respectively, a baseline assessment survey of 31 inclusive schools in the state revealed that most of the inclusive primary school units do not practice inclusion because the physically challenged students were taught in separate classrooms.
"A total of 38 schools made up of 31 inclusive primary schools and seven inclusive secondary schools were reviewed in the survey. Findings revealed that 26 inclusive primary and secondary schools, representing 64 per cent have at least one teacher in the entire inclusive unit, while 19 schools have only one teacher for the entire unit. Seven schools have two teachers for the entire unit.
According to the survey, " In virtually all the primary schools, children with disabilities were taught in separate classrooms. However, this is different in the secondary schools where they are taught in the same classrooms with their able-bodied counterparts.
"Observations in all the 38 inclusive primary and secondary schools revealed that children with disabilities attend same morning assembly with their non-disabled counterparts, and no separate playground is built for the children with disabilities.
The report further stated that: "Appreciable level of inclusion is practiced in the eight inclusive secondary schools as students attend same classrooms with other able bodied student.
"All the 38 inclusive primary and secondary school units in Lagos State are grossly lacking in inclusive education teachers and other required personnel including care givers," the report added.
While commending the Lagos State government for being the only state in the country to have demonstrate very strong commitment towards full implementation of the inclusive education at both primary and secondary schools levels, the groups demanded that a medium and long-term Inclusive Schools Development Plan be drafted in line with the state's schools development plan.
They also called on the government to ensure that monitoring system in all relevant agencies are strengthened to ensure full implementation of the Inclusive Schools Development Plan, the Lagos State Inclusive Education Policy and the relevant provisions of the Lagos State Special People's Law 2011.
"The strong commitments of the Lagos State government towards ensuring effective social inclusion for all persons with disabilities are too obvious and cannot be over emphasised. The over 10 years of implementing inclusive education and the landmark passage and implementation of the Lagos State Special People's Law are two strong evidences, which demonstrate the effective institutionalisation of social inclusion as a fundamental principle of state policy in Lagos State," the DPAI scribe submitted.
She continued that, "Nonetheless, it is expected that these two achievements will elicit citizens response in demanding more opportunities across all sectors. The establishment of the 38 inclusive schools for instance, has in no small measure elicited increase, not only in the creation of access to education, but also in the demand for better and qualitative education services in public schools.
"It is, therefore expected that government will, in its usual posture, take the lead in responding to the key recommendations of this survey, while partnering with, and encouraging other stakeholders to play their roles."
Other speakers, including Chairman, Lagos State Advocacy Committee on Special Education Matters, Deaconess Adeola Olanrewaju; SAVI Coordinator, Mr. Felix Ubanubi and Mrs. Aderonke Koya, a retired Assistant Director of Education in Lagos State, stressed the need for collaborative efforts to end the stigmatisation challenge confronting children with disabilities.