Quest for Inclusive Education dogged by challenges

The failure of a recently released Ministry of Education (MoE) policy on inclusive education, to cater for the inclusion of people with physical and mental disabilities into universities makes high school a dead end for students with disabilities, studying in Namibia.
The policy was created to improve the state of learners with physical and mental disabilities, in the country.
The Villager has learnt that,
The University of Namibia, Polytechnic of Namibia and International University of Management (IUM) curriculums do not cater for deaf, mute or blind students. Worse still, the MoE’s inclusive policy is not specific on the integration of an inclusive curriculum for these students.  This, while there are currently only a few schools around the country, that caters for children with special needs.
Teaching difficulties
One of these schools is the Windhoek school for the Deaf, which was set up by the MoE in collaboration with the Association for Children with Language Speech and Hearing Impairments of Namibia (CLaSH).
Director of CLaSH Heide Beinhauer says, while there are three schools for the deaf in Namibia, there are still difficulties when it comes to teaching these children due to vastness of the vocabulary that teachers have to learn. This is also the reason that Universities do not cater for the deaf and other people with special needs.
“The university system does not really cater for people with hearing disabilities and they seem to fail, especially for the deaf, because of a particular set of skills that are needed. One needs to be fluent in a foreign language, and every country has its own sign language” Beinhauer said.
She also explained that the biggest difficulty comes in where there are abstract terms like, bio diversity, or when explaining the cold war comes in. This is because people have to make up signs for these terms and these signs will be different in all the different sign languages.
“They would have to ask the deaf community, but with the lack of access to information that most deaf adults experience – even they don’t know what the teachers are talking about” she further added.
Deaf student not alone
This problem does not only exist for the deaf. It has emerged that people suffering from learning disabilities are also not catered for in university curriculums as it would be expensive to get the necessary resources to include all members of society.
The policy will however provide for more schools in Namibia’s 14 regions. The Head of Inclusive Education at the MoE, Dr Inaani Kahikuata-Kariko has said that in some regions they do not even have one special school and the policy aims to have at least one special school in every region.
“These schools will mainly be resource schools where other schools can come and get information on how to deal with learners with special needs” she said.
Founder of Autism Namibia Petra Dillman welcomed the new policy but also stated hurdles that the policy could experience. She said that as long as everyone thinks it is the MoE’s job alone, while people in Namibia have to ‘fight’ and ‘beg’ to become part of the mainstream system, the policy will not work.
“Society at large and all the ministries must realise that inclusive education does not only mean inclusion in centres of learning. Inclusion means being included and welcomed into society, be it home, school, taxi, bus, doctor, friends, shops, hotels, etc” she said.
It is estimated that a total of 5% of the Namibian population has some sort of disability. This equates to a 105 000 Namibians living with disabilities in Namibia and according to a report which was published by the National Youth Council (NYC), the situation is undesirable in the country.
In this report the NYC found that communities generally have a negative perception towards people with disabilities. They found that in some rural areas people with disabilities are seen as liabilities to families. As a result of this, they are kept hidden at home which causes them to miss out on education.
Few specialised schools
The fact that there are not enough specialized schools in Namibia seems to hamper progress even further. At the moment there are only five schools in the country that cater specifically for learners with disabilities.
Dr Kahikuata-Kariko said they would not start with inclusion at every school in Namibia but that they would identify schools that they could start to implement the policy. They would identify these schools by carrying out a survey to find the specific needs and barriers of specific schools in Namibia.
Dillman however said that MoE is far away from assisting all learners or people. “It is a huge task which requires huge sums of money and human resources.  We could open up 10 schools tomorrow and would still not meet the needs” she said.  
She added that if each family is prepared to support one person with a disability, each teacher accepts one person with a disability in their class, each learner assists with helping that teacher every day, each business or government department accepts one person, each worker assists one person, Namibia would soon become and inclusive society and enjoy the rewards of working alongside one another.