Government should offer a more inclusive education to increase access and opportunities for children with disabilities. Currently, our children with special needs are largely excluded and marginalised. Even the visually impaired children and those incapable of hearing are not as amply catered for as required by the law. Yet, the government’s Education White Paper, 1992, pushed for their active facilitation.
Woefully, government has failed to honour the positive provisions for these children in the Persons with Disability Act, 2006. The Act demands government guarantees 10 per cent of Uganda’s education budget annually to educate our children with special needs.
Unless these provisions are enforced, children with special needs will remain excluded and marginalised by our education system. Little wonder; special needs pupils posted poorer grades in last year’s Primary Leaving Examinations. Even when the performance significantly improved, the same was not true for pupils with disabilities. A quick run-through the results for Mulago School for the Deaf, Uganda School for the Deaf, and Nancy School for the Deaf, show pathetic aggregate; not better than Aggregate 15. These results are not flattering for a group already disadvantaged.
For now, funding and access to children with disabilities remains limited; their teachers are few and distinct facilities for them deficient. No doubt, the government has created great policies for PWDs. These challenges should be pushed beyond mere talk and vote-catching issues. The equalisation provisions are great but should be enforced to benefit children with disabilities. These representatives have not acted on by-laws so the PWDs and activists demand those rights. The minister in-charge of PWDs, the five MPs, and PWD representatives in local councils should push to have these provisions enforced. Let our policy makers and enforcers listen to celebrated American singer, pianist, and songwriter Stevie Wonder. He says: “Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.” Inclusive education is a basic human right and the foundation for a more just and equal society.
In sum, as one of America’s greatest presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said: “Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.” Let us change our attitudes towards people with disabilities. Only then should we agree with English Actress Emma Thompson who said: “Being disabled should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life.” Let’s open up access to inclusive and equitable education and give our children with special needs the same rights, access, opportunities to advance their education and opportunities in life.
The issue: Children with special needs.
Our view: Open up access to inclusive and equitable education and give our children with special needs the same opportunities to advance their education and opportunities in life.