By PATIENCE PATI
Zimbabwe has few schools that provide education to children living with disabilities, the ministry of educa-tion is trying to implement inclusive education as a way of addressing the needs of children living with disabilities.
According to the Nevada Partnership for Inclusive Education (2016), “inclusion is an educational approach and philosophy that provides all students with community membership and greater opportunities for academic and social participation and achievement. It is ensuring that every student feels welcome because their individual needs are valued and met and entails that children with special needs attend the nearest school they would have attended had they not been disabled.” Inclusive education gives a chance to children living with disabilities to be among their peers and not to be in a vacuum world whereby the school they attend is a special school only. Some schools in our communities have a resource class and a qualified special needs teacher. The resource class is there to cater for a specific impairment for instance a school that has a class for the deaf and dump, or a class for those with mental retardation. This is a good initiative that helps learners who do not have any disability to learn to accept, tolerate and importantly remove any sort of stigmatization towards their peers who are liv-ing with disabilities. Catching them young and teach-ing them to accept differences in others is a lesson be-ing taught with inclusive education. Some of these learners have accepted their peers who live with disabilities.
In this regards inclusive education can be seen as a way of promoting positive attitudes in communities, as the learners will end up educating their fami-lies about accepting difference in others. In schools learners are seen helping their peers either by pushing their wheelchairs or carrying their bags,
some are keen on learning sign language so as to communicate with their deaf peers. Inclusion can also be regarded as a way of reaching the aim of education for all, as no child is left out regardless of their capabilities. Learners with special needs attend nearby schools to their homes and that are affordable to their families.
However, inclusion has its own fair amount of challenges, as most schools that have adapted inclusion they have no adequate resources namely ramps for the
wheelchairs, rails for the blind or sound proof rooms for the deaf. Ablution facili-ties are not there that a learner with spe-cial needs can use with ease.
There is also fair amount of stereotypes and negative attitudes from some parents as they do not want their school to be as-sociated with children with disabilities as they think all people with disabilities are mentally disturbed. For instance some women I had an encounter with clearly stated that & quote, “chikoro chenyu chave chemasasikamu, takuto bvisa vana vedu” (your school is now for the men-tally retarded we are going to transfer our children). Some teachers have nega-tive attitudes towards learners with spe-cial needs as they regard them as useless and slow learners who are difficult to teach, hence if one has a resource class he/she does not spend time teaching the learners instead they go about doing other things or just leave them to play. Some just write work on the chalkboard and ask the learners to just copy in their books, pretending that they are teaching them.
Some families who have children with disabilities are also not prioritizing these children and are not concerned about their education. It is very sad that today some families are still hiding their children and keeping them home. A child can reach 12 years age and never attended any form of school. Society will be aware of the situation and yet they do not re-port the matter to relevant authorities. These and more negative attitudes stand as a great barrier in making inclusive edu- cation a reality.