CHALLENGE & REALITIES OF NON-INCLUSIVENESS IN EDUCATION: NIGERIA IN FOCUS (Part 2)

By AdvocateNews on 04/12/2019

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High Chief Onagu TZ Ogbodo
High Chief Onagu TZ Ogbodo

This is the concluding part of the article by High Chief Onagu TZ Ogbodo published December 3, 2019 to mark the International Day for Persons with Disability or the World Disability Day. This article therefore is dedicated to all persons with vulnerabilities that suffer discrimination as a result of the ignorance of some members of the society that do not know that there is ability in disability, that a person is not inherently ‘disabled’ and that disability is not a feature of a person but only a health impairment.     

Part 2

POLICY AND LEGISLATION 

Enugu State Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Department for International Development’s (DFID) Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) blazed a trail in producing a domesticated Enugu State Inclusive Education Policy in 2011, the first of its kind in Nigeria. Challenged by this proactive action from a state, the FMoE commissioned a National Inclusive Education Policy which was approved by the 62nd NCE Meeting at Kano in 2017. It’s all very good as both actions of Enugu State and the Federal Government confirm the intent to get it right, but sadly, we are still waiting for the propeller of that intent by the dissemination of the policies i.e. ‘making it happen’ ala Prof Obanya.  

However, after so many years of walking in the dark, there is now a national policy on Inclusive Education. A flip through it shows that the policy is one founded on three important principles that include; that all children belong together; that all children learn at different paces; and most importantly, that every child has the right to be included in education. Thus it is a policy that seeks to promote mainstream education for all, including all marginalized groups of learners. To move EFA forward in this instance requires the policy action to be backed by political will at the national, state and local government levels. At the national level, the FG must implement the passage of new laws mandating IE across board; with responsibility for its implementation spread out to all the MDAs – Education, Health, Women Affairs, Labour etc; while at the state levels the national policy should be domesticated, such that local schools and communities must participate in its implementation through resource mobilization, infrastructure development, capacity building, generating knowledge and more importantly to know who to hold responsible whenever and wherever leakages occur along the belt-way of the delivery process. 

However, the greatest barriers are the very ones we consider easiest in this crusade, which is Data - the dearth or non-availability of reliable and current data for effective planning purposes has been a great set-back to advancing the course of IE as illustrated below: 

a)  Worried that Nigerians often voice out that the standard of education is falling, International Development Partners brandish statistics of the abysmal performance of candidates in external examinations and together with the government proffer solutions which most times end up in strengthening only the Inspectorate or Quality Assurance Units of the FMoE and SMoEs, but they fail to strengthen inclusiveness in the reforms they proffer while ignoring the fact that candidates with disabilities (without appropriate accommodations and under very unpleasant conditions) partook in the same examinations that were used as a barometer and number amongst those reflected in the outrageous statistics they parade. This is a case of partially wrong diagnosis, of ignoring some truths in proffering solutions just as is also in the second recurring statistical matter below of:

b)  When Nigerians come to grim terms with the UNESCO statistical data that it leads the world with 13.5 million Out of School children (OoSC), distantly followed by Pakistan. Our policy makers and even the media regrettably pretend as if they don’t know that majority of those counted as OoSC are children with no access to education due to circumstances of disability, marginalization, vulnerabilities etc. Some are drop-outs due to the unfriendly nature of the regular schools which could be mitigated by remodeling the schools to become EFA  inclusive education compliant. 

Of note is that till date no reliable Disability Census has been officially conducted in communities in the 774 LGAs either by the FMoE or SMoEs. This critical planning tool should be sponsored or funded by States and Local Governments in conjunction with Traditional Rulers or it could be classified as democracy dividend and appropriated as Constituency Projects in Federal and State constituencies, Local Governments, Communities and political Wards for Senators, Members of the House of Representatives and State Assemblies. This will to a large extent complement the Nigerian Disability Bill recently passed into law by an act of the National Assembly and assented to by the. President of the Federal Republic, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari. 

The Disability Census will stem the constant bandying of faulty statistics by global bodies, which challenges us to do more for Nigeria whether in the public or private sector just as Delta State Government (under former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan) took the bull by the horns and launched the DELTA EDUCATION MARSHALS in September 2013. 

It is a bold step ahead in ‘making it happen’ by adopting an approach aimed at ensuring compliance for every child in the state to be in school during school hours. It removes children who hawk goods during school hours in traffic and elsewhere off the streets. With daily School Meals (feeding) by the federal government now in the mix, Schools’ in Delta State gets child-friendlier and enticing which will build interest in learning for children in the state thereby meeting the advocated UNICEF international School-friendly standards. 

c). Available Data reveals another noticeable barrier in this crusade which is that we mostly preach to the Choir. It is very clear that we have been talking to ourselves (policy makers & education managers /administrators), in fact we have been preaching to the converted in many IE Seminars, Workshops and Conferences organized by the FMoE, SMoEs, Development partners, CSOs, CBOs and FBOs as often reflected in the list of participants while leaving out or ignoring the affected children, their parents and people in the society that deal with the prejudices, stigmatization and harmful traditional practices associated with vulnerable children in their everyday lives. These are the people that need to get the message of IE in their language, in their communications and in their everyday engagements with life, so I advocate that we need to leave the comforts of the cozy air-conditioned Conference /Seminar/Workshop Halls and Offices and embark on STREET LEVEL ADVOCACY …engaging with those affected in their ultimate environments with its peculiar circumstances as supported by the epigenetic view in psychology espoused by Gottlieb (2004) that emphasizes that development is the result of an ongoing, bi-directional interchange between heredity and the environment. Heredity and environment operate together – or cooperate – to produce a person’s intelligence, temperament, height, weight, ability to participate very well in extra-curricular activities, ability to read etc, so it is incumbent on us to always maintain a conducive environment for people with impairments. 

Any wonder that most of the affected children often display aggression even in ‘friendly’ engagements and also exhibit a lack of empathy while always manifesting a suspicion that someone is trying to take advantage of their vulnerabilities. 

Such mal-adjusted character traits hurts rather than heal as people with good intentions often tread carefully given that there is a thin line between empathy and sympathy in viewing those with vulnerabilities which has curbed the interests of many a benevolent philanthropist. 

So getting the elephant in the room out is Attitude, Attitude and Attitude. 

In fact our Attitude counts so much, so to create a more inclusive system requires a new improved and a more serious approach in our attitude to show a hunger to take IE seriously for once. Can anuone imagine that copies of the approved National Policy on Inclusive Education which the DFID in collaboration with ESSPIN printed and published in 2017 for subsequent dissemination are  to still in limited circulation and can be found decorating shelves and desks at the FMoE and SMoEs instead of being made available to the end users (teachers, parents and vulnerable children and adults with impairments). 

Notwithstanding such glaring lapses, we must continue to strive to change the school system to be IE compliant by an attitudinal change by all the stakeholders to ensure the achievement of the target objective as continuing to place children with special needs within the presently unwelcoming school environment will not lead to a meaningful inclusion, so our school system and its environment should be made to become child-friendly and welcoming to all children irrespective of their endowments. That is the spirit of Education for All which will make true inclusion a reality for all children to learn together in accordance with the established protocols from the under listed international conventions and normative instruments* which Nigeria is a signatory to: 

a) The right to an education free of discrimination is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN, 1948) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN, 1989). 

b) Provision for equal rights for children and adults with disabilities and for the provision of an integrated school setting Rule 6 of the UN’s Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (UN, 1993)

c) The Jomtien World Declaration on Education for All (EFA) (1990) reaffirmed in the Dakar framework for action (2000): “In order to attract and retain children from marginalized and excluded groups, education systems should respond flexibly …education system must be inclusive, actively seeking out children who are not enrolled, and responding flexibly to the circumstances and needs of all learners…” (UNESCO 2007b).

d) The Salamanca Framework for Action, Article 3 (1994) that, “…schools should accommodate all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, linguistic or other conditions.” (UNESCO, 2007)

As we once again mark December 3 as the  International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPWD) otherwise known as World Disability Day, all hands should be on the deck to ensure that all the above mentioned international declarations which Nigeria is a signatory to are implemented with respect to children with Special needs because as we often say and which is truly apt “Education for All is the responsibility of All and the future is Accessible as we must together call out environmental and social barriers that exclude people wherever we see them and work to overcome them”

Happy World Disability Day Nigeria, the future is indeed very promising for inclusiveness in education. 

High Chief Onagu TZ Ogbodo arpa

Permanent Secretary (Rtd)

psonaguogbodo@gmail.com, 08064243595

Posted 04/12/2019 06:27:47 AM

 

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