Sustainable Development Goal 4 of the Education 2030 Agenda calls for inclusive and equitable quality education and equipping learners with the skills needed to thrive in today’s and tomorrow’s world. Specifically target 4.7 aims at ensuring that ‘all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and culture’s contribution to sustainable development’ (Teaching and Learning: educators’ Network for Transformation (TALENT), 30 Sep 2020).
Working in the rural places has afforded me the opportunity to appreciate the diversity of our country. The opportunity has further enlightened me on the progress that we have made as a country in terms of cultivating Inclusive education. I also have come to appreciate the vast challenges ranging from accessibility to an education, and the special education needs by our systems. As a special education specialist, I thought I should put up a word for such learners. It is indeed a gratifying development that Botswana has adopted an Inclusive Education system. A system that means that all children in the same classroom, in the same school. It means real opportunities for groups who have traditionally been excluded – not only children with disabilities, but those from minority groups too. Inclusive education systems value the unique contributions students of all backgrounds bring to the classroom and allow diverse groups to grow side by side to the benefit of all.
Though I cannot conclude with certainty the extent of severity of the challenges to learning that I observe on a frequent basis, some learners are experiencing disability that affect their ability to understand numbers and learning math facts (Dyscalculia), handwriting ability and fine motor skills (Dysgraphia), the ability to read and relate language-based processing skills (Dyslexia) and Oral/written language disorder. My observation is that learners with such challenges have an access to education. The challenge is the extent to which quality education reaches them. Quality in this sense being the extent to which attention to applying the relevant policies is concerned. Are the limited human and physical resources utilised fully to help the deserving students? To what extent do we develop Individualised Education Programs (IEP) in various places? Is reference to special schools or relevant professionals done frequently? These are just some of the challenges which I think we need to confront as educationist.
It is good that we have all learners in one classroom, including those that are showing signs of challenges to learning. It gives every child that sense of belonging, and eliminates segregation and the stigma thereof. But I think encouragement must be given to special education teachers to always assume the duty of attending learners on a one-on-one basis if ever we are to ensure that comprehension takes place, lest we brush all learners as lazy and non-committal to their academic work upon getting poor results. I guess I am advocating for the development or identification of special rooms in all schools which will be dealing with special education matters. I feel we have a lot of learners who have learning disabilities and yet we are not noticing them as practicing facilitators. What we easily pick are learning problems which are a result of visual, hearing or motor handicapped. Learners with Learning disabilities seem to have a gap between the individuals’ potential and the actual achievement.
Like all children, children with disabilities have ambitions and dreams for their futures. Like all children. They need quality education to develop their skills and realise their full potential. Policy should therefore not overlook their uniqueness, lest we limit their access to education and their ability to participate in social, economic and political life. It is my view that the rightful policies are available, it is just a matter of a speedy implementation and applying ourselves to those policies. That should surely embrace all learners. Send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org