By CALEB AYANSINA
ABUJA – CHILDREN with disabilities across the country have demanded review of all legal policy frameworks on education at the national and state levels to accommodate more children who are physically impaired in the country.
They said it was unfortunate that about seven million of them were out of school in spite of the provision of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act of 2004 in the country.
The children, who spoke through the National President of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), Ekaete Umoh, revealed that they remain out of school because virtually all primary and secondary schools in Nigeria were designed, built and managed in ways that was totally not inclusive of and not accessible to them.
Ekaete was speaking at the media launch of the Baseline Survey conducted in Akwa-Ibom, Kwara states and the Federal Capital Territory as part of the ongoing project on Advocacy for Inclusive and Accessible Universal Basic Education for Children with Disabilities in Nigeria supported by USAID Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement (SACE) Programme in Nigeria, in Abuja.
JONAPWD President said it was ironical that basic education remains free and compulsory in the country, but the door still remains shot against children with disabilities in their father land.
She said; “Research has shown that children with disabilities constitute more than 50 percent of the over 10 million out of school children in Nigeria despite the provision of free and compulsory of basic education for all children.”
According to her, the idea of special school for these categories of children is no longer working because it takes them away from their family and community lives.
Ekaete explained that the number of out of school children with disabilities keeps on increasing “because their education is confined to the few, outdated, poorly funded and inadequately staffed special schools which are mostly sited in very distant hard-to-reach locations.
“The system of special school is being rejected because of its contribution to the sustenance of negative practices against PWDs and the denial of the rights of children with disabilities to family and community life.”
She further noted that though the country had signed and ratified several International Protocols/Conventions on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, they were abandoned or poorly implemented by the government.
To correct this, the group called on all “stakeholders to review all existing legal and policy frameworks including the UBE Act of 2004, the draft National policy on special needs education and the National policy on Education.
“State governments also need to initiate policies in this direction, while those states with policies on inclusive education should work towards full implementation.”
Also, they stressed the need for the proper implementation of the 2016 budget with high consideration for persons with disabilities.
“It is expected that a pilot or demonstrative implementation of inclusive education policy would have commenced in at least nine primary and secondary schools in each of the three project locations,” they added.