Inclusive Education

Let’s start with a definition, what is “inclusive education”? 

According to UNESCO, inclusive education is “addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures, and communities, and reducing exclusion from education and from within education” (UNESCO-IBE Director, Clementina Acedo). The goal is that the entire education system will facilitate learning environments where teachers and learners embrace and welcome the challenge and benefits of diversity. Within an inclusive education approach, learning environments are where individual needs are met, and every student succeeds. When we talk about the diversity of needs of learners, we can think of it as a learning disability. Learners with special needs are some of the most neglected groups, this is because of many factors. The most important one is that the teachers, parents, or even the learners themselves are not aware of this disability, especially if it is not physically recognizable. Usually, when a child is lagging in school, they label them as a slow learner, and they invest little effort in trying to find the root cause. 

About 93 million children worldwide live with disabilities. In Africa, about 6.4% of children in this age range have moderate or severe disabilities; and less than 10% of all children with disabilities under the age of 14 are attending school (UNICEF, World Bank). Like all children, children with disabilities have ambitions and dreams for their futures and they need quality education to develop their skills and realise their full potential. Yet, we often overlook children with disabilities in policy-making, limiting their access to education and their ability to take part in social, economic, and political life. Worldwide, these children are among the most likely to be out of school. They face persistent barriers to education stemming from discrimination, stigma, and the routine failure of decision-makers to incorporate disability in school services. 

As the Paideia Project, one of our biggest objectives is to find innovative ideas and tools for the successful implementation of inclusive education in our communities and learning institutions at all levels to ensure quality and fair education for all. I emphasized implementing these tools and solutions, as this is crucial. Some laws and policies include persons with disabilities in Zambia, but their implementation is inadequate. The Disability Act of 2012 ensures full and equal human rights and freedoms to persons with disabilities. However, there was the perception of a sizeable gap between this Act and its implementation at the local level. 

As I previously mentioned, one reason learners with disabilities, especially children, are behind is that most teachers or educators and parents are not aware of the child’s disability. We can change this through capacity building for teachers, parents, administrators, and even communities by training them and providing technical support for them to identify such disabilities so they can provide the required attention to the learners. 

Special needs learners require special methods of learning. People learn in different ways and that is why the use of visual aids is one of the most important methods or tools for teaching and delivering educational information to learners. In this new digital era, technology can also play a very important role in helping us achieve our goals. For example, learners with visual or reading difficulties could make use of text to speech software to read their material while those with writing or spelling difficulties could be able to type their responses using assistive technology such as an on-screen keyboard, word prediction, and speech recognition. However, successfully adopting the use of technology in the delivery of inclusive education requires a lot of resources and the need to overcome digital illiteracy both in teachers and learners.  

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