This blog was originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse by Deborah Brown Majekodunmi on December 3, 2022
According to WHO’s report, 80% of persons with disabilities live in low and middle-income countries, often with a high rate of school-aged people out of school. Having worked on education in emergency interventions within similar contexts, I can attest to the low motivation of children and young adults towards staying in school. This outcome could generally be associated with poverty, their preference to work instead of schooling, or the need for families to make favorable economic choices based on their means, but rarely is it linked to the lack of teaching resources (inclusive curriculum and instructional materials) and non-inclusive teaching methods which make it difficult for some learners to with special needs to stay in school.
In most rural settings which lack appropriate classroom spaces and learning resources, all children are made to learn together without any specialized instruction. Could this relatively also mean "inclusive education"?
While some settlements may have one school building or a few more located within long distances, some may only have a tree with a slate/chalkboard and mats to sit on the floor.
The concept of Inclusive Education in a more advanced context would include further steps to provide Individualized Education Plans (IEP) for learners with special needs to support the reinforcement of their learning even though they learn in the same classroom with others.
Improving Inclusive Education in low-income contexts begins with the ability of the educator to recognize the needs of learners and within the most feasible means, employ the necessary modifications required for classroom engagements. These steps would improve student participation and retention in school activities.
As the world commemorates the International Day Celebration of Persons with Disabilities with the theme: "Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world"; we are presented with an opportunity to reflect on the role of innovation within the confines of the 4 pillars of sustainable development (Human, Social, Economic, and Environmental). Recent advancements in technology have enhanced access to information, communication, and education of persons with disabilities. Teaching and learning experiences of people with disabilities have also improved with the use of assistive devices. This is however the case of people in more advanced settings; as persons with disabilities in low-resource contexts still lack access to stable internet and electricity, and the financial resources to purchase basic assistive devices, some of them may need further training on how to use the available assistive device for learning. The importance of inventing locally inspired devices for and with persons with disabilities cannot be over-emphasized, usable within low-resource contexts (in tech terms for the next billion users). It is also paramount for duty-bearers to recognize and enforce the rights to education of persons with disabilities and their choice to study any subject (especially STEM subjects), in other to have expanded career options. Educators must also build their capacities on the adaptation of classroom modification techniques and the use of locally sourced Instructional materials to support all learners.
In exploring this topic to profer further recommendations, I had a deep dive session with Opeolu Akinola, the Executive Director of AccessTech Innovations to discuss the situation in Nigeria as a case in point. See the video below.