By Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo
PHYSICALLY challenged persons in Akwa Ibom State have lamented the alarming number of children in the rural communities across the state that lacked access to basic education.
The South South Coordinator, Nigeria Association of the Blind, Mr. Daniel Udo told Niger-Delta Voice last week in Uyo that about 260, 000 children with disabilities in Akwa Ibom are out of school due to lack of special schools and existence of separate educational institutions.
He noted that the situation in the state explained the series of seminars and interactive forums of stakeholders in the management of disabilities, Akwa Ibom education sector and families of children with disabilities to find solution and the way forward.
Udo said: “We carried out a study in 2015 and it was shocking when we found out that we have about 270, 000 children with different forms of disability in the state. And out of this figure, only 10,000 have access to basic education.
“Now one of the reasons why 260,000 are out of school is because in the whole of Akwa Ibom State, we have just one special school owned by the government which before now, was not run as a boarding school. So you can imagine how a blind child from Oron, Eket, Ikot Ekpene or Ikot Abasi can come from these far away local government areas to Uyo and go back on daily basis to attend school for children with special need.
Need for inclusive education
“Assuming the public primary schools that we have in the local government areas are inclusive and our government employs special teachers to take care of the children with special needs, I think they would have gone to school. Support from Lilian Foundation: It was a continuation of our advocacy for inclusive education for children with physical disabilities.
“At the end, we came up with some recommendations which included that lack of policy on inclusive education in the state accounts for the increasing number of children with disabilities that are out of school. The state government should endorse the draft policy on inclusive education arranged by the Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities with support from USAID.”
Similarly, another physically challenged person who simply identified himself as Mr. Uduak from Oron said USAID was working hard to develop a policy that would serve as a legal framework to guide the state government on how inclusive education will be implemented in Akwa Ibom to reduce the alarming number that do not have access to basic education. The project stared since 2015.
“The USAID is supporting the project in three states for now – Akwa Ibom, Kwara and the Federal Capital Territory FCT, Abuja.
“Stakeholders are saying if the children without any physical disability and those with disabilities study in the same environment and if we buy and sell in the same market, live in the same environment, we are saying that separate special education is unnecessary,” he stressed.
Kick against discrimination
In his contribution, the state coordinator, Akwa Ibom Human Rights Community, Barrister Clifford Thomas, frowned at the situation where government discriminates against persons with physical disabilities.
“The system must yield to this demand for inclusive education. Government cannot create one special school in each of the local government areas. And even if it can, the advantages of inclusive education outweigh the disadvantages because it will help them to integrate with those without any form of disability in the society,” he said.