The Rivers State Universal Education Board (RSUEB) has partnered with the Inclusive Education Alliance (IEA) to drive Inclusive Education processes in Rivers State.
IEA- a collaborative network of stakeholders formed by Lifeline Organization for Children Empowerment (LOCE) under the EU-ACT Grant paid a courtesy visit to the RSUEB and secured partnership with the board to drive inclusive education implementation process in Rivers State.
The lead team, Executive Director of LOCE, Ngozichukwuka Obiyo, who spoke passionately, told the board that she has come to present the newly formed IEA under LOCE concluded project with the Agent for Citizen-Driven Transformation (ACT) Programme since the board was unavoidably absent during the 6 meetings held in the state.
She said “It appears impossible for the IEA to operate without the board and therefore it’s imperative to make this call.”
Obiyo told the board that the alliance is made up of 5 Line Ministries, Civil Society Bodies, Human Right Organizations, Legal Bodies, Special Educators and Parents. She reminded the board chair that this is the time to collect the list of schools receiving intervention funds in the state which was promised to the organization during the consultative visit 3 months ago.
She requested for partnership with the board asking the board chair to authorise the group to carry out awareness within the inclusive schools communities as well as schools receiving the intervention funds to ensure that the children left behind are enrolled in schools as their families may not know about the existence of such facilities. She also requested partnership in the area of mapping of children with disabilities and their needs as there are no reliable data with respect to the population of these children.
Other member of the IEA, Mr Enefa Georgewill, the chairman of civil society network in Rivers state, said the board’s support is important and will enhance the quality of the work to be done by the IEA and also emphasised that the implementation of Inclusive education rest with the board and therefore the board should consciously enforce it beyond funding basic education in the state.
He said this partnership will help beef up the state of inclusive education in the state as compared with other states who have made good efforts to ensure their children with disabilities are not left behind. Georgewill also mentioned that the IEA is working on the framework that will enforce policy direction as regards persons with disability rights.
Mr Udeme Matthias, a visually impaired counselling psychologist, said “the demand we are making is backed by the global goal of leave no one behind and that every member of the society requires quality education but regrettably the facilities within the state do not encourage inclusive education, he said this movement today with the board will help strengthen the system.”
He also added that the Government action is very relevant for the enforcement of this concept to ensure that even visually impaired learners like him are not left behind and this will further improve the economic status of their families.
Matthias argued that we all live in the same system and community that accesses the same facilities and therefore education should not be segregated.
In his response, Executive Chairman of Rivers State Universal Education Board (RSUEB), Dr Fyneface Akah said that this IEA calls today, to stand with the government will not only be to create awareness but to see how certain things can become a reality in the public schools. He told the team that the reality is there are over 1400 basic schools within the state which cannot be converted as inclusive school, but that the inclusive schools domiciled in the three senatorial districts will be given access to the team to verify their status and bring report to the board.
His words “when we have our funds for this special school project, we now know the public schools to channel the resources to and with you people on ground working with the board, I am sure that when the supervising board of the UBEB from the Federal Ministry comes, they will see that we have gone a step further beyond what we were doing over the years with the funds that are coming here”.
Akah also requested that the board will welcome training for teachers as it is an area of difficulty as finding right teachers are hard but the partnership with the IEA will ensure teacher capacity are built and well prepared to support the teaching and learning experience in those schools.
He said the board will officially write the group authorising them to have access to details of the schools and added that the insight gained will advise the board on where the experiment can be started from considering the funds on ground.
He also asked the group to develop a proposal with achievable objectives even though the board may not completely finance all, because of limited funds, he encouraged the group to continue to seek for grants the way they used to. He offered that the IEA will stand to advice the board on how to appropriate the funds in terms of infrastructure, instructional resources equitable distribution to the schools.
Akah said emphatically that the IEAs idea is something the board will love to purse. He instructed them to go and articulate a more achievable objectives in their proposal and bring to the board, adding that the 2023 funds will be equitably distributed. He commended this passion has come to deepen their own passion for the work.