Education will prove disability not inability

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Editorial Cartoon

The Education Week Tanzania is now marking is an encouraging high-profile focus on a crucial aspect in the country’s development.

The country has recently initiated various activities, including Big Results Now, some focusing on ways to boost the quality of education. This comes after the initial focus on the building up of numbers at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

The significant increase in the number of children enrolled in schools has come with its set of challenges the government is addressing as part of the implementation of a strategy aimed at improving education and make it a major plank of national development.

The government sees Education Week as chiefly meant to informing and educating the public on the importance of quality education and to raise awareness among teachers, students, parents/guardians and other stakeholders in part through stimulation of academic competitions.

The government is already also addressing the pertient issues, starting with the provision of teaching and learning facilities. Most public primary schools and so-called ward secondary schools face a serious shortage of desks and facilities such as laboratories, and this ought to be treated as a matter of urgency. Also being addressed is the shortage of teachers, with training programmes going on to ensure meaningful recruitment.

The education set-up still faces a major gap that is not talked about so much but calls for equally urgent attention, if education is to be truly a universal right for our people, children in particular.

We are talking about children with disability. Many of these have remained seriously marginalised, indeed shut out of school, by the prevailing rough environment.

We are short of the right physical infrastructure – just as is the case with teachers adequately armed with the skills and provided with the assistive devices they need to ensure the gainful training of children. It is sad that some parents and guardians are notoriously reluctant and therefore unprepared to enrol their children in school, whihc is outright illegal.

The National Policy on Disability states categorically: education is key to the development of the potential of children with disabilities. It underlines the need for early learning and basic education to all children aged seven years, with children with disabilities accorded preferential treatment. We commend the government for pursuing the inclusive model, where children with disability learn side by side with their able-bodied colleagues, forging friendships and generally mixing freely.

But notwithstanding the existence of the policy, there are major gaps. For instance, not all the schools have the facilities needed to enable children with disability to learn comfortably and meaningfully – and therefore need assistive devices for hearing and seeing more clearly as well as moving around easily.

If stakeholders are truly committed to making education the right of every child, then more resources are needed, which means that there is need to have enough funds to cater for the needs of children with disability.

We salute all those schools that have sought out such children, encouraged parents to enrol them in school and fought to lift the regrettable barriers between them and their able-bodied colleagues.

It is through education that we will unlock the potential of children with disability, proving that DISABILITY IS NOT INABILITY.

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