Is the dispute settled? Yet we have a long way to go

March 28, 2018

Learners with disabilities are simply children or youth who are different. No child or youth is similar which is everyone is different. However, the type and level of difference in learners with disabilities is large enough to get much more attention and special educational services will be sought. Special education is a set of services that may include instruction in a general education or special education classroom, education in the community for students who need to learn life and work skills.
Students with disabilities continue to face negative attitudes and stereotypes in the education system. Lack of knowledge about and sensitivity to disability issues on the part of some educators, staff and students can make it difficult for students with disabilities to access educational services equally.
Research findings revealed that most African countries are still segregating and marginalizing learners with disabilities from regular schools. As a result these learners are remaining out of school. In some countries they implement inclusive education, educating all learners including learners with disabilities in one class. Yet, with scarce resources, poorly trained teachers and lack of infrastructure still the problem is aggravating.
It is interesting to note that the dispute continues even in the developed nations. In USA students with disabilities are expected to benefit from comprehensive long-term services which empower them to be more active, productive, and independent, which equally benefits their families and communities. One of the most important successful concepts in accommodating learners with disabilities is least restrictive environment (LRE). The LRE provision guarantees a student’s right to be educated in the setting most like that for peers without disabilities in which the student can be successful with appropriate supports provided. For most students, the least restrictive environment is a general education classroom. However, for some students being in a general education classroom nearly all day may be academically and emotionally inappropriate. So learners with disabilities will be placed in a resource rooms, self-contained class or even be educated at home or hospitals. So far it looks perfect and appropriate for every learner with disabilities. Yet, identifying the LRE other than a general education setting is a serious decision and brings dispute among stakeholder and parents.
The disagreement of education for learners with disabilities has a long history. Special Educational Needs (SEN) is an aspect of education which has always tends to bring with it controversy and questions regarding rights, equality and social justice. However, as Africans we are disputing at a primitive level to accept or reject a learner with disability. It is too late to talk of marginalization we have other issues to argue with. African societies have much to learn from the exemplary programs and projects on disabilities and special education provisions in developed societies, where effective legislations, curriculum and support services are provided at all levels for individuals with disabilities.