Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tanzania wants inclusive education

From The Daily News in Tanzania:

If education challenges were solved and wiped away, the system of Inclusive Education would save many Tanzanians who are excluded and marginalized from
education rights towards a better future.

Inclusive Education in children is the process of addressing and responding to the diversity of learners’ needs through increasing participation of the process in the communities and reducing segregation within their education system.

It involves changes and modifications in contents, approaches, structures and strategies with a common vision that covers all children of suitable age range and a conviction, which is responsible for the regular system to educate all children and remove barriers.

The system is in line with achieving the Millennium Development and Education for All (EFA) Goals especially in developing countries such as Tanzania that has not yet achieved the goals due to many challenges that calls for urgent solutions.

Rose Mary is a 15-year old girl who has never been to school in her lifetime because she is blind and deaf. Her father believes that she is not capable of learning because of her disabilities.

Since disability is not always inability, Mary says, “I believe if I’m taken to school I will learn like other students and achieve a better life that will enable me become independent,” she says.

In an exclusive interview with the ‘Daily News’ on a Saturday , Mary says that her father failed to take her to school, claiming that children with disability are not allowed to join a school in the country.“He tells me that even if I was taken to school I wouldn’t be able to learn like other students since we need special education needs that is not available in most schools,” she explains.

However, opening a two-day National Workshop on Inclusive Education in Dar es Salaam recently, the Deputy Minister for Educational and Vocational Training, Mrs Mwantumu Mahiza says parents with disabled children ought to take their children to school.

Mrs Mahiza says that it is on account of lack of proper statistics on children with disabilities that the government has always failed to meet the Millennium Development and Education for All (EFA) Goals towards school planning development.

The EFA Goals aims at all children especially those with special needs and reach those who are excluded and marginalized in small-sized special schools.

“Having a proper statistics of children with disability helps the government ensure that meaningful learning is enhanced to all children through budgeting special education needs of disable children,” she says.

She says most of parents with disabled children have a tendency of hiding the children from the public and fail to take them to schools; an act that leads to creation of difficulties in developing special education needs for them. Tanzania Education Network (TenMet) organized the workshop in line with the development of a National Inclusive Education Strategy by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.

The purpose of the workshop was to discuss various meanings attached to Inclusive Education and agree on the broad features, describe and assess the system into practices, policy and institutional level.

According to Mrs Mahiza, the workshop was a contribution to Ministry’s process of developing the IE Strategy by identifying barriers, a way forward and point out possible strategies to implement the system. Various participants including education stakeholders from the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, Non-Governmental Organizations and other Institutes dealing with marginalized and excluded children attended the workshop.

The participants discussed and lined out various recommendations that would lead to minimization of barriers to presence, participation and learning as well as maximizing of resources needed to keep inclusive education system functioning effectively.

Giving her point of view on the development of Inclusive Education, an Education Adviser in Tanzania, Dr Sai Vayrynen says that the country should design an education system that welcomes all children and accommodates different ways of learning, thinking and expressing them.

“Most of the schools in Tanzania do not create education systems that attract individual uniqueness. That is why some parents tend to hide their disable kids from public by denying them the rights to education,” she says.

Dr Vayrynen says that designation of education systems targeting disable and vulnerable children would force their parents to take and register them in schools. In her opinion, the country should build an education culture that develops and promotes peace, appreciate diversity, and respect uniqueness by seeking families and children who are vulnerable to take them on broad.

Moreover, the community and individuals should be responsible and accountable to one another towards preventing the exclusion and marginalization in education rights.

“Tanzania should identify the forces pulling the nation away from realizing the right to education and reinforce the forces that would help in moving forward to the education goals,” she says.

Zefania Kalumuna who deals with marginalized and excluded people in the country, says that a policy to adopt inclusive education that articulates strategies should be implemented.

“For all children to access quality education in any given community…. some form of sustainable inclusive education systems have to be developed and implemented in line with the reviewing the policy to adopt the Inclusive Education,” he says.

In addition, the government should also review the current teachers education curriculum to focus on inclusive education and train teachers including the facilitators using participatory methods and differentiation.

According to Director of Primary Education, Mrs Ephracian Ntukamazina, barriers and bridges to quality IE can only be removed by improving school infrastructures, increasing the number of schools and alternative forms of education. She says most of children fail to acquire education rights due to lack of schools around their communities especially in rural areas.

“Schools should be available at rural areas where the majority of disable children are found,” she adds. Mrs Nkukamazina says most of the schools have been located in towns where some rural people are not able to send their students.

“We should find ways of allocating financial and human resources through community participation and empowerment and sensitize the community on the value of the rights of children to education,” she says.