From Sola Ojo
Stakeholders in the education sector in Kaduna State especially those advocating for improved educational provision for girls have called on the Kaduna State government to create a budget line thereby increasing budgetary provision for girls with special needs.
They specifically called on both the outgoing and incoming Governors, Nasir El-Rufa and Sen. Uba Sani to make more funds available for this group of girls in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) so they can cope well with every other child with great potentials to contribute their quota to state, national and global development.
As it is now, girls with special needs in Kaduna State face double invisibility as they have very little access to education due to the lack of specific budgetary allocation for STEM.
Team Lead, Advocacy for Improved Budgetary Allocation for STEM Education for Girls with Special Needs, a project by Centre for Girls’ Education, Hajiya Aisha Bello, said her organisation secured Rise Up support to improve the lives of girls and women around the world inclusive of those with special needs.
To her, girls with disability that have mobility issues need to be knowledgeable in technologies to help them go places they cannot go easily.
“STEM education gives girls with disabilities the skills that make them more employable and ready to meet the current labor demand.
“Women with disabilities have low employment rates, as compared with men with and without disabilities and women without disabilities. More girls in STEM will bridge the gap.
“Girls with disability need to be a part of the workforce that STEM course alone can make possible, this will shrink the gap and reduce inequality”, she said.
She further noted that there is only one government special school in Kaduna which recently started a senior secondary section where there is a need for a well-equipped Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and laboratory.
Making the additional case on why the State Government should make enough funds available in the special school, a Rise Up Fellow and Executive Director of the Basileia Vulnerable Persons Rights Initiative, Barr. Jennifer Agbaji believed that STEM education would equip girls with disabilities with employability skills in the ever-competitive labour market.
“In the course of our advocacy, we discovered that there is no specific budgeting line for girls in STEM. Rather, it is just lumped up in the Disability Affairs Board.
“One key thing the state government whether under the current administration or the incoming one can do is to ensure a specific budget line is created for these girls and at the same time increase the overall budget for the only special school in the State so that we can all move on the same pace without leaving anyone behind”, she said.
Chairman, Joint National Association of Persons with Disability (JONAPWD), Kaduna State Chapter, Suleiman Abdullahi said, his organisation is open to providing an enabling platform for young Nigerians who are disabled but want to pursue basic and tertiary education in the State.
“We are having some new members who we are meeting for the first time. Some of them have physical disabilities, some have sight issues while others suffer albinism, hearing and speaking impairment. As a matter of fact, there is a lady who is blind and at the same time disabled.
“So, I know the state government is trying, but, I want to also appeal for additional funding by way of ensuring that everything necessary for smooth running of STEM for disabled girls in our Special School is provided”, he said
They all however sought media support in bringing the issues that affect Nigerians with one form of disability or the other to the attention of policymakers and implementers just as they do when it comes to politics and security among other issues.