The Director of the Division of Special and Inclusive Education at the Ministry of Education (MOE) is pushing for equal opportunity for disabled children.
Mohammed Konneh spoke recently at the campus of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) in Kakata, Margibi County.
Konneh said although there are many challenges facing the education sector, disabled children should not be neglected and denied access to formal education as they are equally important as other children.
“Being faced with competing priorities occasioned by economic constraints on national government, the private sector or religious setting should not make us feel despondent of our responsibilities to equally educate the disabled or physically challenged population, including children in said conditions,” Konneh said.
He said the need to harmonize and validate the curriculum so as to enable the inclusion of school aged children with disabilities needs no further emphasis but implementation.
Konneh, however, explained that the MOE is seriously concerned about the huge educational disparities between the disabled population, mainly children and youth, and the many others who are not, and is working hard to bridge the gap by encouraging teachers, parents and their colleagues from the other side of the divide to support its efforts.
Konneh’s remarks were made during the occasion marking the close of a two day curriculum harmonization and validation workshop sponsored by HANDICAP-International (H-I), French Agency for Development (AFD), in partnership with Sight Savers International, National Union of Organization of Disabled (NUOD) and the MOE.
Konneh has meanwhile commended all teacher training institutions in the country that are leading the harmonization of the curriculum to enable the disabled to have equal access to formal education.
Earlier, HANDICAP-International Project Manager, Ms. Winnifred D. Chea, said the harmonization of the curriculum was started in 2010 by a consultant hired by her organization.
The harmonization of curriculum project and its incorporated schools started in three counties – Bomi, Montserrado and Margibi – but was halted in 2014 due to the outbreak of Ebola.
Ms. Chea said H-I has been piloting six schools in the three counties, and their plans are still resonating well.
She said prior to the outbreak of Ebola, studies conducted showed that parents of children with disabilities were willing to send their children to school, but that the children were faced with humiliating mockeries from their friends who are not disabled.
‘’This is the challenge we have to fight. The challenge concerning humiliation of children living with disabilities by their counterparts,” she said.
HANDICAP-International is working alongside the MOE to train teachers to deal with students living with disabilities.
For her part, the Executive Director of the Commission on Disabilities, Mrs. Ricardia Dennis, called on government to provide the political will for the smooth implementation of the inclusive education program.
The workshop ended with the participants promising to go out and help bridge the gap between the disabled and the rest of the country’s population.