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SHORTCOMINGS IN INTEGRATING SPECIAL CHILDREN IN A REGULAR EDUCATION CLASSROOMS

Inclusion is a term to describe the placement of special education students in regular education classrooms. However, placing special students in regular classrooms can be quite challenging especially in Nigeria where disabled children are treated as outcasts (not in all cases though)

The idea of quality, as far as special children are concerned, refers to the provision of equal educational treatment to the end that the child gets an opportunity to develop to the best of his ability. Therefore, it entails the provision of a free education and deliberately planned programs to suit the child’s ability at no cost to him and his parents.

Further, I believe some children just need an environment different from the regular environment they’ve been used to in order to thrive coupled with all the attention they can get for the best environment to learn.

Identification and Referral

In an inclusive education setting, placement of exceptional learners is one of the fundamental aspects of special education. Administrators without knowledge and experience of special education usually encounter difficulty. Without appropriate identification and referral of exceptional learner, it is often difficult to have an appropriate placement. Due to lack of legal mechanism, inclusive education is hard to maintain, talk less of providing appropriate services for children with disabilities.

Further, in an inclusive setting, the referral process does not provide a suitable method for documenting and gathering systematic data for record-keeping and reporting purposes. Although there is a variation of practice among states and districts, the referral process is not seen to be a procedure used throughout this country, because it neither helps parents know their rights nor give them the freedom to litigate when their children are inappropriately identified or targeted for inappropriate placements.

Assessment

Informal measures, tests, class work, homework, and assignment projects are equally used with modifications for people with special needs. The flexible and individualised nature of these assessment strategies encourages higher motivation for all learners and increases their development of confidence. Furthermore, it eradicates the discriminatory nature of fixed tests that are used in labelling and that may be culturally insensitive to address the day-to-day reality of persons within some given culture. Assessment which is an integral part of Nigerian education and has a high degree of diversity is rare.

Instructional programs are arranged to allow for assessment that will monitor student’s programs while other assessments are referred to a specialist at various centres. The problem is the lack of standardized tests, hence, children are placed in schools at the discretion of their parents and are planned and taught by teachers who may not have been previously trained to handle diverse learners with special needs.

Funding

The Federal Government of Nigeria’s inability to fund general education has led to the total abandonment of any request for setting up suitable structures for inclusive education and for those children with disabilities. The lack of adequate funding has created problems for school administrators to effectively carry their administrative duties well. The policy document has neither classified any criteria for personnel training nor co-ordination of its special education unit. This situation has led to the stagnation of inclusive education in Nigeria (Eskay, 2009). Conversely, the government has not come up with an accurate number of those in need of special education funding. Further, the lack of professional training in the field of special education has led to some school administrators in poor planning, and thus, perceives children with disabilities negatively (Eskay, 2009). In fact, lack of training facilities, human and material resources, and the unfavourable attitude of the society towards children with disabilities have added to the funding constraint.

Environment

One goal of special education programs in today’s world is to place learners with exceptionality in the least restrictive environments that would allow them to maximize their academic and social potentials. Children with varying disabilities have a right to education in a non-threatening environment. In the National Policy on Education (1998), Section 8 clearly stated that all children, in spite of their physical, mental, and emotional disabilities, must be provided with equal educational opportunities. Adequate education must be ensured for all children, so they can fully play their roles in the development of the nation. The school’s administrators, according to the National Policy on Education, are supposed to provide for students with disabilities in order that they may contribute towards nation building. Unfortunately, the objectives have not yet been achieved in many Nigerian inclusive classrooms. The lack of a legal mechanism to enforce the necessary stipulations, such as placement decisions by law, is not made through an M-team (multi-disciplinary team). This team includes a psychologist, educational diagnostician, teacher, administrator of special education, physician (if requested), parent(s), student (where appropriate), and other specialists who work with the students (Rivera & Smith, 1997). The truth is that these theoretical objectives are yet to be fully realised in schools. The practices of policies in the National Policy on Education are yet to be implemented and the objectives are not yet functional.

Yet, it is of great importance that equal educational opportunities be made available for all children since everyone has to have the same chance of getting a job or doing well (Ajuwon, 2008).

In spite of the fact that Nigeria is a member of the United Nations Edict on Human Rights and Child Right, yet the child has no right to be free, enjoy leisure and play, and be protected from harmful practices, violence, injury, and abuse. Nigerian legal protection and security for children with disabilities are only in theory instead of being put in practice. This means that these children with disabilities are not guaranteed equal treatments, integration, education, and their eventual mainstreaming in an inclusive setting in Nigerian society.

Likewise, Lots of school administrators and teachers do not have the professional skills to work effectively with the various disabilities in an inclusive setting. Because of this lack of professional skills, educational policies and programs do not reflect the need for individual differences or disabilities. The educational set-up is mainly structured and not accommodating to children with disabilities in an inclusive setting.

Children with a disability may also become lost in a large group setting considering the fact that regular teachers may not understand the student’s with disability and become rather impatient with them, a child with a disability, on the other hand, may also feel stupid for struggling when other children are already getting it in class.

 

 

 

Article by: Busayo Tomoh

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