KAMPALA - Researchers gathered at Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU) Kampala campus called for mandatory training on sign language for teachers in the country.
According to them, this will enable teachers interact with disabled students in school and improve the learning environment to the hearing impaired (deaf).
This was raised during a national child-focused policy research agenda debate organized by The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC).
"There are few schools for people with disabilities (PWDS) in the country compared to general schools, and yet teachers find it challenging to communicate with those having impaired hearing,” said Gemma Ahabwe, a researcher with EPRC.
She added that many deaf children feel isolated in schools that lack special needs experts and this makes them drop out of school.
They also called for the introduction of special needs programmes to teachers training instructions like Primary Teachers' Colleges, National Teachers’ College and at universities.
Researchers further called for more establishments of PWD schools in the country especially in rural areas, adding that most of them are found in urban areas, denying those in rural areas education.
Dr. Wardah Rajab Gyagenda, the director of research, publications and innovations at IUIU urged the ministry of education to introduce a special package for albinos while in school.
This, according to her, will induce many parents to take children suffering from albinism to school thence availing better education to them.
"Ugandans look at albino children as a curse, little attention is given to them in terms of education or medical care and many albinos are prone to abuse while at home.”
Researchers suggested that the ministry of education, science and sports reviews the affirmative action of 1.5 extra points added to girls and special talents children in higher levels of learning.
Sheila Depio from EPRC explained that the policy should look at disadvantage and locality of a child as opposed to gender to offer 1.5 extra points for higher institutions of learning.
"There are boys in rural areas that walk two kilometers to school and they are not given the 1.5 points by the education ministry, and a girl from Gayaza High School is given. This is unfair and should be reviewed.”
They blamed parents for failing Universal Primary Education (UPE) and also accused them of contributing to the number of school dropouts through child marriage and labour.
In a research on school dropout conducted in 2016 by Vincent Ssembatya, the Director Quality Assurance at Makerere University, 500,000 of 1.8 million children drop out in Primary One after one year where about 60% are girls.
The national child-focused policy research agenda (2016-20) by UNICE shows that introduction of UPE led to close to universal net enrolment rates.
Education ministry's view
The undersecretary of the education ministry Aggrey Kibenge said the ministry is encouraging inclusive education policy that will accommodate all pupils with special needs.
“We are developing programmes that will ensure all special needs children are accommodated in school and we recommend the private sector to come on board with suggestions,” he said.
George Okiror, the commissioner in charge of special needs in the education ministry, explained that the ministry has established several special needs schools spread across the country to cater for special needs.
They are also considering a move to increase teachers with PWDs expertise in schools across the country.
"We have special needs schools at regional levels in the country, with several special needs units at general schools, but we hope to open up others in the near future,” said Okiror.