By Hassan G. Koroma
In their quest to promote equal education in the country, which was the theme of celebrations to observe the Global Week of Action on Education: ‘Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity Education and Disability’, Education for All-Sierra Leone Coalition (EFA-SL) has highlighted some of the policy demands that would ensure people with disability have access to good and quality education in the country.
While reading the policy demand for the Coalition’s position on disability to the government of Sierra Leone on Wednesday 7 May, 2014, during a well-attended forum discussion at the British Council Auditorium, National Coordinator of EFA-SL, Joseph Cobinah, said there was a need to create appropriate legislative framework and set out ambitious national plans for the inclusion of people with disability, and to ratify and implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Cobinah said that removing legislative or constitutional barriers for disabled people would mean their inclusion in mainstream education systems, and the involvement of disabled people and organizations in the planning and monitoring of education blueprints at all level, as well as to provide capacity resources and leadership to implement ambitious national plans on inclusion.
He urged government to allocate at least 20% of the national budget to education and ensure that at least 50% is dedicated to basic education and ensure the Ministry of Education, Science and Education has the primary responsibility for the education of disabled children, with different levels of responsibilities clearly outlined across the whole education system backed by high political leadership.
He said that government should invest in improving knowledge and capacity of local and national government institutions in the country in order for them to deliver inclusive education and improve data on disability and education and build accountability for action and ensure education data is disaggregated by disability and gender, and that it tracks both enrolment and retention in different schools in the country.
He said that proprietors of schools should always ensure that schools and classrooms are accessible to disabled pupils, and enforce accessible school regulations for all, while providing materials and technology to support learning for all and ensure there are trained and qualified teachers that can cater for all categories of pupils.
Making statement at the discussion forum on inclusive education for all, Commissioner, National Commission for People with Disability, Fredrick Kamara, who also chaired the panel discussion, said it was important for the government to provide inclusive education for all level of persons, be they able or disabled because education is the most important tool in the world.
He said disabled children encounter discrimination in many spheres of life, not least in education, and called on government to provide people with disability access to education in primary schools and at tertiary institutions.
On his part, President of the Sierra Leone Union of Persons with Disability, Kabba Franklyn Bangura, said inclusive education could only be possible when the government provide necessary learning materials for all types of pupils in the country.
He said the government should embrace inclusive education in pursuance of the process of strengthening quality education for all in the country.
He said quality education for children is the only way to promote and improve the quality of lives of the people, thus there should be no exceptions in the educational system.
Malcolm Kpana, the second blind student in the history of Sierra Leone who is pursuing an LLB degree at Fouray Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, called on the government, through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to always give chance to people with disability to have access to international scholarship, as they too can do better.
He said the disabled, especially those in the universities, encounter several difficulties going for classes due to the fact that some classes are conducted in the last storey of the building, thus having to miss lectures at times when there is no one to aid them through the stairs.