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Thursday, 19 July 2012 06:21

IDPs and special education needs

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No child left behind:  Four words that ensure basic education caters for all.  The education sector requires restructuring in Nigeria.  From archaic syllabus to examination malpractice, several glitches within the educational system have caused Nigeria to lag behind global education standards.  Regrettably, millions are left behind and reorientation of our education system should be a priority.

The 2015 Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report (GMR) has revealed that “Nigeria failed to reach any of the global education goals.”  This indicates that the ‘Giant of Africa’ is not doing enough to improve its children’s education.  According to the United Nations Education, Scientific, Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), “Nigeria has more out-of- school children than any other country in the world.  The number was estimated at 10.5 million.”

In the shadows of the system lurks the plight of Special Education Needs (SEN) students erroneously regarded as dull, slow, or mentally challenged, SEN students are marginalised and ignored.  Most people are dismissive of the realities of learning difficulties, assuming it is not a common problem in Nigeria.  This is far from the truth.

SEN is stereotypically categorised as educating physically challenged students in separate special schools.  Special education is much more than two or three labels.  It covers a vast range of learning difficulties, sensory/physical difficulties, communication needs, intellectual disabilities, behavioural/emotional difficulties and medical conditions.

It is necessary to accommodate students with special needs within mainstream schools instead of them being unjustly perceived as burdens and brushed aside.  Identifying strength and weakness, application of multiple teaching methods, individualised educational plans, therapy, modified syllabus and assessments and physical structural assistance are few services that are provided to SEN students to improve their educational knowledge.


Two cases particular to Nigeria today are sickle cell anaemia (SCA) patients and internally displaced children. Because of frequent hospital admission and health-related school absences, SCA students fall under the medical attention aspect of special education.  “No child left behind” is priority.  SCA patients often deal with emotional distress and struggle to keep up with the syllabus that they missed.

Recent series of unfortunate events in the north east has displaced entire communities.  Children’s educational process has been disrupted and many are out-of-school.  IDPs will need post-conflict rehabilitation.  Most (if not all) children will need some level of special education needs support, ranging from behavioural/emotional needs to communication needs.  That is excluding any other needs not taken care of prior to the conflict.

So far, there has been overwhelming support by individuals and charity groups to help IDPs.  However, establishing a functional school system is still in the works.  The government is yet to act on improving this aspect. The Special Education Needs office in the Ministry of Education is a small under-resourced room, with little activity.

A ‘Disability Bill’ is still in limbo at the National Assembly bookshelves.  “Part XII – Education” section of the “Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities” is flawed in the sense that it is not adequate and relevant to students with learning difficulties.  A few lines are not sufficient to cater for the needs of students in Nigeria.  “Special Education” should be an Act on its own, with the following provisions;

An Amendment to the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities Act

Definitions and eligibility of Special Education Needs, Learning Disabilities, Social Disabilities, Mental Health Disabilities, and Physical Disabilities Diagnosis and Certification Emphasis on Inclusive Approach to integrate SEN students in schools Administration, Projects, and Research Departments Source, allocation and use of grants and funds Roles of State, Public and Private Schools, Teachers, Students, and Parents

Methods of Teaching, Alternative Assessments, & Assignment Modifications Parent and Teacher Training/Interaction

Resources and tools within government schools for Special Needs Students Awareness, information centers, booklets, and website

It is apparent that a lot more should be dedicated to SEN students.  The aim of a Special Needs Education Act is to protect the rights of children with learning difficulties to improve their educational outcome and ensure the equality of opportunity, independent livelihood and economic self-sufficiency.  It should be designed to meet their needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living.

The Federal Ministry of Education has to ensure that all students have high education standards by providing qualified teachers, proper resources and a favourable learning environment. Improving education will create productive citizens, who will contribute to the development of Nigeria, instead of becoming detrimental to our society.

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Read 1814 times Last modified on Monday, 17 August 2015 15:30