Government will carry out a national survey of children with disabilities to establish a database if the new proposed curriculum review is adopted.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
According to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education handbook on curriculum review, it was imperative to review current policies on special needs education, and to ensure in-service workshops for teachers to learn basic Braille, sign language, and early identification of disabilities.
“The Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) allocation for children with special needs should be raised to 20%,” read some of the recommendations in the handbook.
“The National Braille printing press should be made functional and a National Braille Authority set up.”
The ministry said the recommendations were reached after consultations with administrators of special schools, Department of Schools Psychological Services, pupils living with disabilities and parents.
During the consultations, the ministry said they found inclusion of learners with special needs in the mainstream was minimal, as well as that the main disabilities that were focused on were visual impairment, hearing impairment and physical handicap.
“Learners living with disability were sent to special schools. Special education was offered mainly up to Grade Seven and at very few secondary schools thereafter. Therapy for children with disabilities was available only at hospitals and training of specialist teachers was done only at the United College of Education in Bulawayo,” the handbook says.
“Observations were that children with special needs were segregated and stigmatised. Some disabled children were kept at home while others were hidden from neighbours and society. Resource units catering for the hearing impaired, visual impaired and mentally challenged were poorly equipped.”
Watson Khupe, the national chairman of the Federation of Organisations of Disabled People in Zimbabwe, said people living with disabilities wanted to look at the document before it was approved by Cabinet.
“We are certainly sure there are some omissions that may adversely affect the education process for disabled children. It is now common knowledge in Zimbabwe that any policy or Act that is introduced without disabled people’s input always creates barriers for accessibility to disabled people,” Khupe said.
“Zimbabwe has not yet enacted the Specific Special Needs Education Act or a disability education policy. This is probably the best opportunity to do that as Parliament is in the process of aligning some legislation with the new Constitution.”
He said funding for the education of children with disabilities was inadequate, adding it must include transport and personal assistance.
Khupe said it was imperative for Braille and sign language to be lied of studied at every teachers’ college.