By Stephen Ssenkaaba
A new government policy is in the offing to ensure that learners with special needs have equal education opportunities in this country.
The policy currently under discussion will also ensure that where possible, learners with special needs study in an inclusive environment to enable them benefit from an interactive school atmosphere.
The Draft Policy on special needs and inclusive education 2011 stipulates guidelines for provision of specialized instructional materials, equipment and supportive services.
It also provides for training of special needs and inclusive education personnel.
It also guides on access to physical environment in schools, the curriculum, assessment and information.
The policy is in line with Uganda’s commitment to observe and respect human rights especially for marginalized groups in this country.
“The legislative context in providing education for learners with special needs is embedded in the National Constitution (1995) which provides for the right to education, provision of affirmative action in favour of marginalized groups on the basis of gender, age, disability or any other reason…” the Minister of Education and Sport, Jessica Alupo said in a statement.
Alupo said that the policy will provide leadership, policy direction and guidance in the implementation of Special Needs Education.
Currently there are a number of schools in the country where inclusive education is being practiced.
In such schools, pupils with mild disabilities attend ordinary schools and participate in all school activities with the rest of the learners. However there are special schools where learners with severe physical and learning disabilities receive specialized attention.
Despite this, many schools are struggling. A New Vision survey in different schools revealed prevailing inadequate facilities and trained teachers as well negative attitudes in many schools where special needs learners are taught.
The budgetary allocation to special needs remains a paltry 0.12% of the entire education budget.
This, many observers say not only hardly support the unique demands of special needs but also is contrary to the (The Persons with Disability Act (2006) which suggests that 10% of the entire education budget be dedicated to special needs.
“Unless addressed urgently, these problems are likely to make the implementation of the special needs and inclusive education policy difficult,” says Ronald Luyima, a programme officer at the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU).
Uganda is a signatory to the International Agreements that provide for learners with special needs; such as the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education (1994).
Uganda has put in place The Persons with Disability Act (2006) and has also ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008).
Both instruments demand for access, equity and quality as regards educational services for persons with special learning needs.
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