September 17th, 2015
How is Inclusive Education defined? And how should it be implemented? These were some of the questions that were discussed when IAS arranged a seminar on the topic Inclusion or Separation – What´s best in education?
The seminar was attended by IAS collaborating partners and students and teachers from Stockholm University and opened up with a short overview of the historical development of Inclusive Education (IE). This was followed by discussion on the definition of Inclusive Education.
– IE is about including all children with specific focus on those who are facing barriers to learning and participation and hence vulnerable to marginalization, exclusion and underachievement. This includes children with disabilities, said Stephen Mwaura, IAS Inclusive Education Focal Point.
Environment needs to change-not the child
Stephen Mwaura stressed that all children can learn and should be given equal opportunity to reach full potential in education.
– IE is about changing the systems to fit and accommodate children facing barriers to learn and participate and not changing the children to fit into the systems. So, how do we remove or minimize these barriers so that all children can have access to quality education?
Paul Mbatia, Coordinator from Light from the World also stressed that Inclusive Education looks into transforming education systems in order to remove barriers that prevent children from fully participating in education. And this goes back to how we view people.
– What´s your first impression when you see a person who can´t walk? Do you see the impairment or do you see the person behind it? Impairment is not the issue but the issue is how we respond, Paul said.
-Education is a basic human right and should be achieved on the basis of equality of opportunity to all children including those with disabilities, Stephen said.
Children hidden in homes
Children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion as they are often not accepted by friends, family or the communities in which they live. It is not uncommon that these children are being hidden in the homes since the parents believe the disability is a curse. Therefore they are also denied the opportunity to go to school.
-There is a lot of awareness-work to be done when it comes to changing of attitudes and reducing other barriers in the countries where IAS is implementing Inclusive Education. These countries includes Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan and Kenya.
When children with disabilities are educated in special schools (segregated settings) they are often discriminated and the system tend to force these children to lead a separate life and often unable to fit in the society.
Awareness-work in IAS is done by training teachers, capacity building education administrators, awareness creation campaigns, empowering parents and local leaders, putting together parents groups and family networks, collaboration with key stakeholders, early identification and intervention of children, etc.
How far should we embrace IE?
The seminar ended with a panel discussion on the best way forward, should the education system be inclusion or separation? And how far should we embrace inclusive education?
-In IAS we want to give the child the best start in education and a smooth transfer to inclusion in the regular school. Often these children start school very late, since they have been hidden at home, said Stephen.
Therefore a child might start in a special class situated in a regular school for about two years or so to get extra support before being included in the respective regular class. While in the special class the children have an opportunity to meet and interact with children with no disabilities which is an integration to the regular class.
-Inclusive education is a process, a never-ending search to find better ways of responding to diversity. It is thus an on-going process of changing the education systems (polices, practices, attitudes, resources and environment) so that it can welcome, support and benefit all children, Stephen said.
Text: Rebecka Woods
Photo: Håkan Björk