By Chukwunyere Nwosu, Abuja
The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, in collaboration with the Festus Fajemilo Foundation, convened a two-day national summit to strategize on access to inclusive education for Persons with Disabilities in Abuja.
In his address, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities articulated that the summit’s purpose was to assemble stakeholders, facilitate brainstorming sessions, and identify the existing gaps in providing inclusive education.
The aim was to devise solutions that empower persons with disabilities through education.
He expressed his satisfaction with the presence of key stakeholders responsible for primary, secondary, and tertiary education, underscoring their crucial role in the summit.
Furthermore, he decried the inadequate facilities and lack of access to education for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria. He revealed a disconcerting statistic, stating that 85% to 95% of schools lack accessibility for PWDs, with new structures being erected daily without consideration for accessible facilities.
Inclusive News Network (INN) reports that access to education is a fundamental right for PWDs, as enshrined in the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability Act of 2018 (Sections 2 to 15). However, provisions for accessibility have remained largely unimplemented.
The Executive Secretary disclosed that the commission had developed national regulations for accessibility, set to be launched soon. These regulations will establish clear standards for accessibility in public buildings across all states in Nigeria.
He identified teacher education as another significant challenge hindering inclusive education. He noted a shortage of teachers trained in inclusivity for students with disabilities from primary to secondary school. Bridging these training gaps in the curriculum and addressing discrimination in tertiary institutions were highlighted as key steps toward fostering a disability-friendly society.
The Discrimination Against Persons with Disability Act of 2018, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the African Protocol on Disability are global, regional, and national documents that must be enforced to create an inclusive society, leaving no one behind.
Providing assistive devices and technological tools from tertiary institutions to primary schools is imperative. Accessibility and the provision of assistive devices require funding, and the commission pledged to ensure that a portion of education funds is allocated to supplying assistive devices, especially in tertiary institutions. Lack of access to essential tools can hinder the academic success of visually impaired students.
Ensuring that technological devices are available for inclusive education within the disability community is essential, as technology is an integral part of today’s world.
The Executive Secretary expressed optimism that the National Assembly’s review of the National Disability Act of 2018 would bolster financial support to bridge gaps in primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions.
The Executive Director of the Festus Fajemilo Foundation (FFF) highlighted their collaborative efforts with the Lagos State government since 2019. Their work aimed to enhance the capacity of education stakeholders, develop inclusive teaching and learning tools, and ensure effective implementation of qualitative and functional inclusive education in Lagos State, a model that has been extended nationally.
Diverse experts and professional stakeholders in inclusive education convened during the two-day national summit to brainstorm and advance the cause of inclusive education.
Inconsistent practices of inclusive education across states necessitate standardization. Dr. Adebukola Adebayo, a Disability-Inclusive Development consultant with the World Bank and the lead technical team member, outlined the summit’s objective: to produce Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs) for inclusive education in schools and classrooms.
While national and state policies on inclusive education exist, there is a notable gap between policy and practice in schools. Standardizing operational procedures at the school and classroom levels emerged as a vital need.
The summit’s essence lies in collecting ideas from experts, inclusive education practitioners, classroom teachers, school leaders, and university educators. These insights will contribute to the development of SOPs that will serve as a guide for classroom teachers and schools, promoting uniformity in the delivery of inclusive education nationwide.
INN reports that other stakeholders who participated in the summit included the Federal Ministry of Education, Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), MDAs, NUC, UBEC SUBEBs, and representatives from partner organizations such as SightSavers, The Leprosy Mission Nigeria, Disability Rights Fund, and CBM Global Disability Inclusion.”