British Council Seeks Prioritisation of Special Needs Children in Schools
Jack Acheme, Abuja.
The British Council has called on stakeholders in the education sector to forge collaborative solutions that will give priority to the full integration of special needs children in schools across Nigeria.
The Country Director of the British Council in Nigeria, Lucy Pearson made the call at the Council’s ongoing three days Connect School Annual Inclusive Conference in Abuja, Nigeria, with the theme, “Fostering inclusion and Equity in Education in Nigeria,” aimed at raising awareness of the various special educational needs of learners.
She said the British Council believes that the inclusion of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, SEND, into the regular education systems is an entitlement and the fundamental commitment to developing inclusive practices, urging States, Federal government, and other stakeholders to Key in, stressing the council had always supported them to ensure best practices.
“The conference is a platform for us to come together to share knowledge and forge collaborative solutions with a shared future of inclusive education in Nigeria.
“It therefore requires a multi-tiered response that addresses policy, practice, and culture at all levels within the education system,” she said.
According to her, the essence of inclusion is to ensure the right for everyone to learn, no matter what one’s background or circumstances might be, acknowledging that the Nigerian government has made considerable progress in this area including the inclusive education policy formulation, which will soon be unveiled.
She, however, said there are challenges with the implementation of the policy in Nigeria, advising that the responsibility of implementing and mainstreaming the policy lies with the stakeholders.
“When all stakeholders work together for inclusiveness, all children will thrive in our schools and our societies. Persons with Disabilities only unequally suffer the brunt of educational exclusion.
“We all need to rethink how we conceive education and how we implement learning programs. We need to transform our education systems, schools, or learning centers and make them accessible and equipped for persons with special needs,” she said.
She said the event also allows for the sharing of best practices by professionals, supporting students with educational settings to promote collaborations and networking among practitioners, experts, and other educational stakeholders with variables to developing recommendations for improving the quality of education for students within Nigeria.
The Minister of State for Education in Nigeria, Dr. Tanko Sununu, represented by his special adviser on Politics, Atiku Abubakar, reiterated the Nigerian government’s goal of achieving access to quality basic education for all school-age children, including those with special needs and disability by the year 2030.
He acknowledged existing challenges and outlined the ministry’s efforts in collaboration with relevant agencies and partners to establish a support system, including ratification of the UN Child Rights Act, implementation of SDGs, and the signing of UBE law to aid the survival of children including those with disability.
Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, (NERDC), Professor Ismail Junaid in his contribution said achieving Inclusion and equity for learners in Nigerian schools, including those with special needs is hinged on a robust and enhanced curriculum, infrastructure, teacher capacity and programme sustainability.
He called for the support of state governments towards the implementation of statutory provisions for inclusivity and equity.
“The States have the bulk of the implementation process. So they are very important”, he said.
The three-day event which started on 28, November with various sessions and presentations will end on 30 November 2023.