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Polytech struggles to accomodate students with disabilities

by Shasimana Uugulu

Polytechnic of Namibia Rector Professor Tjama Tjivikua says his institution is severely underfunded such that it cannot overhaul the campus buildings to make them wheelchair friendly.
Tjivikua said that even the most important lecture building which was constructed in the 1980s cannot be accessed by students with disabilities.

“The issue of making campuses friendly to students with disabilities needs more targeted interventions, supported separately by Government, than to leave it up to individual institutions to develop their own initiatives,” said Tjivikua.
The institution’s buildings constructed from 1997 onwards are wheelchair friendly.
But it is the main lecture building’s lack of facilities for the disabled that has prompted speculation on the fact that this might be the reason why the Polytechnic of Namibia does not have any disabled students on campus.
An Education Management Information System (EMIS) report released by the Ministry of Education in 2010 indicated that Namibia has 33 614 learners with disabilities.

The report also indicated that Namibia has 13 special schools including units that cater for students with disabilities.
The University of Namibia (Unam) is the leader when it comes to accomodating special needs students.
Apart from being friendly to wheelchairs, Unam has an operating disability unit that caters for the needs of students with disabilities especially when it comes to assisting them in typing their assignments or translating the summary of blind students into Braille.
Unam Head: Department of Educational Psychology and Inclusive Education Dr Louise Mostert, who recently hosted an international conference on inclusive education, told The Villager that the institution has over 10 students on wheel chairs.
According to her, Unam has made tremendous progress over the last eight years to be accommodative towards the needs of students with disabilities.

“We have a disability unit and so far two of our blind students have graduated from Unam including a few students on wheelchairs,” said Mostert.
She said apart from constructing more ramps and making lifts more accessible to students with disabilities, Unam plans to make even the doors of its toilets wheelchair friendly.
 Mostert further noted that most facilities at Unam including the library are accessible to all students including those with disabilities or on wheelchairs.

According to Mostert, it is important for the country to ensure that more students with disabilities reach tertiary level and institutions introduce courses that are compatible with their needs.
“It is important for society as a whole to provide opportunities to all its members, including those with disabilities. We need to provide inclusive education for all and make our programmes more appropriate for all students including those with disabilities,” said Mostert.
Unam plans to start offering a Bachelor Degree in Inclusive Education to ensure that the country has teachers who meet the needs of all learners.
 “Inclusive education is not only about addressing the needs of students with disabilities but it include all students who exhibit slow learning capabilities which require teachers to give them special attention,” said Mostert.