The House of Representatives has passed for second reading, a bill seeking to make it compulsory for schools to provide facilities for children with special needs.
The legislation is titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Mandate Schools to Provide for Adequate Special Needs Education to Students with Learning Disabilities; and for Related Matters.’
Sponsor of the bill, Obinna Chidoka, while leading the debate at the second reading, stated that passage of the bill would no doubt expand the scope and reach of the Universal Basic Education as envisaged by the Millennium Development Goal, “and ultimately harvest a teeming talent population of Nigerians excluded just on account of their disabilities, due to fault of theirs.”
Chidoka, who is representing Idemili-North/Idemili-South Federal Constituency in Anambra State, recalled that the UBE programme was introduced in 1999 by the Federal Government as a reform programme aimed at providing greater access to, and ensuring the quality of basic education throughout Nigeria.
He said this part of the MDGs was directed at creating an environment to foster development and eradicate poverty.
“For these aims to be achieved, the policy must be made to be all-inclusive,” he stated, stressing that education cannot be universal unless and until all strata of society are covered.
The lawmaker partly said, “Children with various forms of disabilities suffer some form of discrimination and deprivation in schools. Some Special Needs Schools exist to cater for these children. However, where these schools are available, they are either too expensive or too specialised to accommodate all forms of disabilities, thus excluding a good percentage of persons with disabilities from formal education.
“The primary objective of this bill is to bring students and pupils with disabilities into the mainstream learning environment. The bill will mandate schools to make provisions for the teaching of children with disabilities within the same environment as other children in a way that gives the challenged children a sense of belonging and acceptance.
“This will afford schools the opportunity of providing facilities for blind students, deaf students, autistic students and other students with disabilities, including provision for accessibility in the school infrastructure for such students.
“The bill provides for the class of students who are special-needs children in Section 2. It also mandates the education authorities to make regulations that will guide the implementation of this bill, including the training of teachers with special skills required for this purpose, etc.”