Student admission campaign: an alternative thought
Bishnu Kumari Sapkota
In his first ever address to State Assembly in Province-3, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli confidently reiterated that within five years Nepal will be free of illiteracy. If we take his statement as fact, only 59,000 students are out of schools – dramatically less in comparison to 1.2 million before the ‘student admission campaign’ in PM’s lead began recently. Government has decided to extend the campaign till the end of June with commitment to bring left behind students into schools.
The initiative is commendable. However, while considering inclusivity in education, a section of society has been left behind. During the campaign, from PM to presidents of village councils including some leaders of opposition party Nepali Congress have adopted certain children from their communities – ensuring their tuition fees and educational materials for school level education. Remarkably, no student with physical or mental disability was picked throughout the campaign. This simply exhibits our social mind set.
Policies sound beautiful but campaigners may not be aware that a section of community is struggling for the assurance of education for their children with disabilities. Sonam Tshering Sherpa from Dolakha is an example. He is living in Kathmandu just for the education of his child with cerebral palsy. Sonam is dedicated to his son’s education and expresses frustration towards government’s style of working.
Recently, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology conducted a workshop on the importance of inclusive education in federal system. The main target of the workshop was to come out with needed policies and budget. In the workshop children with different kinds of disabilities were present with their parents and associated institutions. They expressed their difficulties in the present education system and at the same time, they also gave an appropriate solution on how government can make education inclusive from their individual perspectives. In the programme, children with autism, hearing impairment, vision impairment, deafness-blindness, and cerebral palsy crafted their expression in such a way that reflects their affection towards education. They are doing the best from their side.
Student admission campaigners should realise that inclusive education needs to bring all children under one roof where they can learn from each other irrespective of their diversity either in their physical or social orientation. Such education method concentrates on inclusive educational tools and technology on curriculum, pedagogy, infrastructure and other teaching and learning processes.
National Federation of the Disabled-Nepal (NFDN) has expressed concerns about the admission campaign. NFDN has asked whether government is prepared to welcome students with mental disabilities in terms of physical and other infrastructures in learning centres/schools. It has further asked the government about students and teachers’ attitude towards students with disabilities, the awareness level of parents and community and also about the hindrances and government plans to address them.
According to current statistics, there are only 33 special schools (which cover 18 schools for Deaf students, 14 schools for students with intellectual disability and one for visual disability) in Nepal, 23 unified schools, where children with disability and without disability get admitted in the same school, 380 resources classes across the country. As per the flash report, 2016/17 of the Department of Education, above 76,000 students with different disabilities have access to school education.
Nepal is a signatory to United Nation Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD), which on its Article 24 obliges state parties to guarantee an inclusive education system at all levels”. Article 26 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), states that, “everyone has right to education”. Sustainable development goals (2015-2030) ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.
On the standpoint of these international commitments, Nepal has the provision of access to education highlighted in Article 31 and 39 of the Constitution. Section 21 of Disability Rights Act has free education service provision to students with disability; Section 22 has scholarship and financial support programme and Section 23 highlights on the access of student with disabilities in quality education.
Education for students with disability should not be theoretical but be as practical as per their needs. For psychosocial and hearing disability, pictorial representation would work, for visual disability, Braille or tactile method would be best. Overall teaching methodology of schools must be pertinent according to diversity of disabilities.
For a country like Nepal, the needed factor to manage inclusive education is active involvement of educational and other crosscutting stakeholders, which also need initial investment in its arrangement. This arrangement not only includes infrastructure but also incorporate well-trained teachers. Teachers are to be positioned in top priority to bring changes in the whole education system and appropriate budget should be allocated for those schools, ensuring right to education for all.
The writer is a development practitioner and currently works in the field of disability.
Published on 5 June 2018