Excluding persons with disabilities from school increases poverty – don

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A university professor has challenged managers of schools to stop discriminating against persons living with disabilities as that may increase poverty.

Florence Banku-Obi who is a professor of Special Needs Education at the University of Calabar (UNICAL) also called for the enactment of a law on disability education in Nigeria.

She said this while delivering the 92nd Inaugural Lecture at the University’s International Conference Centre titled “From Exclusion to Zero Rejects: A Road Map to Inclusiveness”.

In her words, “The world over, children with disabilities live a life of marginalisation, labelling, discrimination, stigmatisation and exclusion. They are seen and treated as unfit and the dregs of the society.

“Excluding children with disabilities from education means that they have a near bleak future with very restrictive prospects for economic independence thereby promoting a cycle of inter-generational poverty among millions of these children.”

Banku-Obi explained that the bill would guarantee full integration and enhance the quality of inclusive education for persons with disabilities.

According to her, she undertook a study and found that many heads of schools were not ready to welcome special children except it became mandatory for them to do so.

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EduCeleb.com reports that only 1,177 primary and secondary schools exist dedicated to persons with disabilities and this cannot adequately cater for their needs.

Globally, Nigeria has the highest number of poor persons, thereby earning the derogatory title of “poverty capital of the world”. Indices in access to education, health and employment are among reasons why about 95 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty as the country is equally far from meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In her lecture, Banku-Obi observed that some teachers do not know how to adapt instructions to suit special children especially those with sensory impairments (blind and deaf).

The former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics) at UNICAL urged governments at all levels to make more public schools inclusive to open up more access to quality education for special needs children.

The professor said that the physical facilities in such special schools should be restructured to accommodate persons living with disability.

She used the medium to advise the Federal Ministry of Education and the various education regulatory bodies to monitor the implementation of the element of special education designed by the National Educational Research and Development Council.

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“Inclusive education is an educational ideology where all learners with or without disabilities are welcome to general education neighbourhood schools.

“The learners in inclusive education are given the opportunity to school and learn together in general education classrooms with their peer groups or age mates,” she said.

Banku-Obi maintained that inclusive education encourages necessary institutional policies to support the disadvantaged, especially those with disabilities to ensure that the “no one is left behind” policy of vision 2030 is achieved.

She explained that Zero Reject requires that an individual with a disability so identified and recognised by law cannot be denied access to appropriate education and related necessary services to help in learning process.

EduCeleb.com understands that the call by Banku-Obi on inclusive education law had already been addressed in the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) act of 2018 even as the Nigerian government has failed to implement it over a year after President Muhammadu Buhari signed the bill into law.

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