Sightsavers on 9th-10th December, 2021 organized a two day last quarterly review meeting on The ‘Support Mainstreaming Inclusion to all Learn Equally’ SMILE project.
Dr. Joy Shuaibu Director Programme Operations Sightsavers in a briefing note presented to the media stated that SMILE project came as a result of the need to take action towards strengthening Inclusive Education in Nigeria because despite the presence of legal and policy frameworks at national and state levels, research still indicate significant gaps in the delivery of Inclusive education for children with disabilities in Nigeria.
“In view of the gaps, The SMILE project was designed in Nigeria as part of larger Inclusive Futures programme and provides an opportunity to jointly design a small-scale Inclusive Education that is innovative and scalable and contributes to ensuring better learning outcomes for children with disabilities in basic education in Kaduna and beyond”.
“The main objective of the project in Kaduna State is to support the state government in its efforts to promote inclusion, guided by its policy and the various initiatives”.
The project started in January 2021, and aims to develop and pilot a small-scale sustainable and replicable model for accessibility quality disability-inclusive education in eight selected primary schools in Jema’a LGA in Kaduna. These locally developed examples of Disability-inclusive in mainstream schools aim to establish model of good practice to inform the state and federal education ministries about low-cost, effective approaches to make the education system in Nigeria more Disability-inclusive.
“To develop a realistic, appropriate and effective model for disability inclusion in mainstream schools, involvement and meaningful engagement of Organizations of Persons With Disabilities (OPDs) is an essential part of the project design in support of the principle ‘nothing about us without us’. Selected OPDs are involved their representatives in the SMILE Project Steering Committee. In addition, they are playing a leading role in the implementation (Advocacy and Awareness raising) in the communities as well as advising SBMCs/PTAs and parents on disability specific issues that may impact learning”.
“The Last Quarterly Review Meeting is to reflect on the steering committee learnings and achievements of what has been accomplished so far, review the project work plan, key forthcoming activities agree on any adaptations required in view of the security situation in Jema’a LGA”.
“It is also to review the progress made by the Partners on the implementation of the action plan from the due diligence conducted and identify areas where the partners may be needing additional support, review the progress on the Project Advocacy Plan and agree on the next steps in taking the advocacy activities forward”.
“The meeting also reviewed the report of the baseline data collection and discuss the implications of the findings of the data collection on programme implementation as well as reviewing the Theory of Change (ToC) and underlying assumptions and agree any revision required”.
Suleiman Abdulaziz, the Chairman, Joint National Association of Persons With.Disabilities (JONAPWD) Kaduna State and a member of the Steering Committee told TQM that they came for a quarterly review meeting which Sightsavers organized every quarter for the Steering Committee under the SMILE Project to identify areas to improve upon. He said that JONAPWD and many other OPDs are well represented at the Steering Committee. He is excited that there has been remarkable achievements on the SMILE Project. According to him, before now, there were low number of children with disabilities enrolled Schools in Jema’a LGA but with the introduction of SMILE Project, there has been tremendous increased in the enrollment of persons with disabilities especially at the selected 8 primary schools. This gesture from Sightsavers have made other LGA inching to have similar project in their LGAs.
He called on government to copy what Sightsavers are modeling in Jema’a LGA and extend it to other LGAs and even ensure that it covers every school.
He informed that Sightsavers has built the capacity of SBMCs, Teachers and head teachers, OPDs, and government officials to understand the importance of Inclusive education.
He also informed that Sightsavers has trained 150 teachers and head teachers on how to handle and identify different categories of children with disabilities and 135 SBMCs on enrollment and also modification of the selected schools to have standard accessibility features.
David Okon, a member of the Steering Committee in a chat with the Press highlighted the importance of Inclusive education when he pointed out the need for different categories of PWDs to learn in the same environment with others with attention to peculiarity of each learner, saying that Sightsavers is developing a model that would put in consideration all learners to avoid children with disabilities travelling very far in order to acquire education.
Citing example with himself, he had to travel from Akwaibom to Lagos to acquire education as a blind person because there was no school that has the facilities that will enable a blind learn in Akwaibom.
“If the Inclusive Education Policy has been in place and well implemented in Akwaibom, I wouldn’t have gone that far to acquire education”
He advised on some people who thinks that Inclusive Education can not work saying that Inclusive Education can work if the right is done or maybe copy what Sightsavers is modeling in the 8 selected schools in Jema’a LGA. Why some people thinking like that it is because most schools are not accessible, most educational materials are not in accessible format and the teachers don’t have requisite skills to teach persons with disabilities.
“I have been in a mathematics class and the teacher is teaching as if I can see what is on the board and when I complained, she told me that she is not trained to teach persons with disabilities and there is nothing she can do about it”
“Inclusive Education can work, if schools are made accessible, educational materials produced in accessible format, teachers trained on how to teach persons with disabilities”.
He informed that the model of Inclusive education Sightsavers is putting out through SMILE Project is holistic because it considered all forms of disabilities and how they can learn alongside others including children with cognitive disabilities. SMILE is a reference point that government should look at and scale it up.
He called on government to invest more on the education of person with disabilities so that they can as well contribute to the development of the society.
Mr. Abel Aseudion, assistant director, special education, Federal Ministry of Education and a member of The Steering Committee said that the Federal Ministry of Education was part of project from the inception to this implementation stage and as the name implies, it is meant to bring joy to persons with disabilities and the society at large.
He went further to say that SMILE project aimed at ensuring the Inclusion of children with disabilities in schools, have recorded a lot of milestones, a lot of teachers, SBMCs and Parents have been trained on how to be Disability-inclusive compliance. Going by the baseline assessment, it was established that the parents, teachers have bought in into the idea but we are reviewing to see where we need to improve and how beneficial it has been on the pupils themselves. This project is impactful and it is assisting the implementation of the policy because after the policy formulation at the National level as the states were not doing anything about it, nothing was happening but with what Sightsavers has started in Jema’a LGA, there is hope that it would be scaled up by Kaduna State government and other state governments.
Inclusive Education is about having every child whether is a child with disability or not to learn in the same environment which will help to reduce discrimination. In as much as the policy look good, there are many individuals within Disability Community who believe in segregated schools because of their peculiarity in learning. Inclusive Education Policy have taken care of these fears because it will consider the learning pattern of all categories of disabilities.
The project has been doing well because it has accepted by State governor when the Steering Committee visited led by Jake Epelle, the leader of the Committee and inspite the challenges of the insecurity in Kaduna State, the findings shown that there is increase in enrollment of children with disabilities which is one of the major objectives of the policy.
Dr. Hassan Lawal Katangora from National Teachers Institute (NTI) and a member of the Steering Committee told TQM that the project has done a lot and NTI have been very vital in these interventions because for Inclusive Education to be achieved, the teachers must be well trained on Inclusive teaching.
She went further to say that as an organization which was incorporated into the project from the inception, the baseline study conducted at the beginning indicate that part of the problems was that teachers lack the skills to teach persons with disabilities, so training manuals and facilitation guides and SBMCs materials were developed and these training materials were reviewed and produced by NTI with the support from Sightsavers. Then master trainers were trained by Sightsavers and NTI and these master trainers are now training the teachers on Inclusive practices. The trainings lasted for 5 days and they are given the opportunity to continue practicing. There would be follow ups to identify where there are challenges and for more training and again teachers have the materials to assist them in practicing and in training others. The training manual has in consideration all forms of disabilities and those without disabilities and there is Child Functioning Model that the project is using to get information from the parents about their children to identify those that have disability and prepare the teachers to understand the challenges the children may be having. It will also help the parents to understand that some behaviours of their children that they are taking for granted is actually disability and there is something that can be done in the school help.
Monday Ojonugwa Okwoli, a Program and Admin Manager, Hope for Handicapped People Foundation and a member of the Steering Committee and a chair of Subcommittee for OPDs that developed Support Service Guide for parents of children with disabilities, because it is believed that for Inclusive education to be effective parents of children with Disabilities should be able to access services that would be able to complement the work of the teachers so they should understand how to access those services.
He told TQM that the project is one of its kind because of its importance to the development of children with disabilities.
‘Before now, we run educational policy that is segregated when separates children with disabilities are other children, children with disabilities go to special schools which were sited at isolated places and when the graduated, integration becomes a problem, other children found it difficult to accept them and for them to get admission to higher institutions becomes a problem. Inclusive Education Policy will bridge that gap and there would be better integration and other children will understand children with disabilities and identify with their capacities which will be place PWDs better in the society”
He expressed hope that the project would be adopted by different state governments so that larger number of children with disabilities can benefit from it.
The right to Education by children and youth with disabilities as it has been entrenched in international law since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Children and Youth with Disabilities have continued to be excluded from any form of education and those who do attend school usually receive a poorer quality education and fewer years of it. Unfortunately, no available data of the number of children with disabilities who are out of school but UN agencies agree that at least one third of the children out of school have a disability. This concerns was brought to the attention of world governments by Organizations of Persons With Disabilities during the negotiation of UNCRPD in the 1990s and that was what brought about a commitment to “an Inclusive Education System at all levels” which means transforming education systems to be Inclusive while providing the individual support services required for learners to succeed.
Some recent declarations such as Incheon declaration Education 2030, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4 on Quality education and article 24 of UNCRPD, all reaffirm universal right to Education.