Challenges of accessing all-inclusive education services by children with disabilities (CWDs): a case of Mijwala Sub-County, Ssembabule District
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Educational opportunities are related in complex way to people’s formative and future relations with peers, family and community as well as work prospects. Education is therefore a fundamental right, and every child must be given the opportunity to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of learning. This was supported by the United Nations Declaration proclaiming the right to education in 1948, the Addis Ababa conference for African region 1961, and eventually the Jometein Education for All Convention 1990. In Uganda the Constitution of 1995 and Government White Paper on Education 1992 all reaffirm the vitality of education to the nation. This has resulted into the government adopting education for all programmes in 1997 for all school- going age in which the following are guaranteed; access, equity, quality and relevance. However, children with disability have not been benefited in accordance to the objectives as disability creates considerable social, economic and emotional cost to children with disabilities, their family and to the wider community towards realization of their educational right. Research studies have been conducted to establish the above causes, contrary little is known about the Sembabule perspective. The literature sources available indicate a multiplicity of factors at play namely socio-cultural which include socio-cultural factors manifested by negative attitude from peers, teachers, parents and religious influence. The economic factors include inability of government to fairly allocate funds to Special Needs, high educational costs, household poverty and poor feeding habits. Whereas the policy factors include political factors, like civil wars and inability to implement the policies. Finally school related factors which include the inaccurate curriculum, negative attitude towards children with disabilities by teachers and peers, absence of disability- friendly structures and the inadequate attention paid to special education as highlighted by various researchers. This could probably explain why in Sembabule District only 543 CWDs are currently enrolled in school yet CWDs constitute 5,410 of the population. (GoU, 2000). It was therefore necessary to undertake this study establish the real causes of why CWDs don’t access education despite all inclusive services in the Sembabule context. This research study was conducted in Sembabule District and Mijwala Education sub region was chosen. This was because it is both a rural and peri urban region as it constitutes Sembabule Town Council. A exploratory study design was used and the study population was a total of 120 respondents comprising of parents and caregivers of CWDs, Key informants like education staff, Chief Administrative Officer, Chairperson LC IV, teachers and CWDs and their peers. Non- probability sampling procedures that is to say, purposive and snow ball sampling were used as the researcher considered people already knowledgeable and those who could lead her to the next respondents respectively. Data was collected using the following methods, literature reviews, interviewing, questionnaires, observations and focus group discussions. The collected data was then analyzed through categorization of responses for qualitative data. It was sorted which facilitated subsequent processing and analysis, master data sheets were used to summarize the data and then tallied to establish the frequency of responses and explain the occurrence of a given variable. It was then cross tabulated to describe the problem It has been established in this study, that Sembabule District though all inclusive Education Services was practiced in all the schools visited it is evident that socio-cultural factors like negative teachers and peer attitude still affects children with disabilities. All the key respondents 95 %,( District officials, persons with disabilities and Non Governmental Representatives) and 90% parents agreed that negative teacher and peer attitude still affects CWDs. Similarly, the class size was also echoed as encumbrance to all inclusive education services as normal class for CWDs is 20:1 (pupils: teacher), here the classes are as big as 100:1. Poverty among CWDs households as was agreed to by all respondents (75%-100%) as indeed a serious deterrent to access all inclusive educational services. Furthermore, the policy environment is not yet favorable to the needs of CWDs to access all inclusive education services. The participation of all stakeholders in formulating of policies is very limited and those formulated have neither been disseminated nor implemented at any level. More than 70% of parents and caregivers feigned ignorance over awareness of the existence of the policies, laws and bills of rights to address PWD issues. However, there are evident changes on the influence of religion on accessibility and attitude towards CWDs .an overwhelming 80% of teachers and 86% of parents and caregivers believe that religion has been down played by the New Testament in which Jesus Christ healed the disabled. Basing on the research findings it can be concluded that CWDs are faced with a cross range of hindrances to access all inclusive education services. Their participation rate in schools in negligible, school classrooms and the school environment is not disability friendly despite their diverse educational needs .The regular classroom teachers lack the requisite training and skills to meet the educational needs of CWDs as well as parent, teacher and peer negative attitude. In a nutshell, all inclusive education services should be commended in increasing CWDs access to education .However, there is need to improve UPE (1997) legislation by making it mandatory incorporating a module on Special Needs in both pre and post teacher trainings, provision of scholastic materials, revision of the current curriculum, initiating extra –curricular activities in and out of schools, change of parental attitude and ensuring participation of all stakeholders in policy formulation dissemination and implementation.