Inclusive education: a solution to learning diversity

Inclusive education: a solution to learning diversity

Every student has a unique ability, strengths and learning style in line with how she or he perceives, comprehends and expresses certain information.

This is why the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is all about the approaches to curriculum and teaching that provides equal opportunities for learning to all students, with and without disabilities in an inclusive environment.

The application of UDL takes account of multiple means of representation, multiple means of engagement, and multiple means of action and this was the agenda of emphasis in the recent inclusive education workshop for Heads of Schools from forty-seven (47) primary schools of Shinyanga Municipality, Shinyanga District Council in Shinyanga region, as well as Misungwi District Council of Mwanza region.

The training that was held in Shinyanga last month was part of a three year (2022-2024) Task Order 51 (TO5I) Project, which is jointly run by the ADD International, Leonard Cheshire and Sense International Organizations in the two regions, under sponsorship of the UKAID.

The workshop that was jointly organized by the three organizations aimed to prepare a pool of trainers who will train their colleague teachers in their respective school settings on inclusive education theory and practice, said the Consortium Project Manager, Mr Menance Mhombwe, from Leonard Cheshire.

Specific attention of the training was on screening and identification of disability and developmental delays, barriers to learning and participation and support needs of children across a range of disabilities, making instruction child-centred and inclusive by differentiating content, materials, methods of instruction, classroom organization and assessment with an emphasis also on practice-based learning at pre-primary and primary levels.

It emphasized on creation of School-Based Inclusive Teams (SBITs) that will be responsible for promoting inclusion and designing learning appropriate interventions for specific students’ learning challenges. 

In the closing remarks, the Director of Special Needs and Inclusive Education from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), Dr Magreth Matonya, argued for teachers to first enroll all children in schools, identify learning challenges and then discuss how to support them.

She advised that after receiving children with disabilities, teachers should consult the District Special Needs Education Officers (DSNEOs) on how to support each one of them as per individual educational needs.

“Don’t let them drop out of school because it’s hard to find them. Don’t let the parents lose hope as it is also very hard to convince them to take their child with disabilities to school,” she said.

The available data from the Global Education Monitoring Report (2020) say that “education systems are only as inclusive as their creators make them. Disadvantage can be created by these systems and their contexts. It exists where people’s needs are not taken into account”.

Again, the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2010, Article 27 to 29 puts clear on the equal rights to education and training in an inclusive setting.

Categorically, Article 28 prohibits any form of discrimination in learning institutions. This is bolded by the Persons with Disabilities Regulations of 2012, that every person with a disability shall have the same rights to education, with equal rights in relation to admission to the public and private schools.

Inclusive education focuses on changing the system to respond to learners’ needs, not changing the learner. What is expected from the system is removing barriers through ensuring teaching and learning environments for all students, attitudinal change and methods to embrace diversity.

In his view, Head of Nelegani Primary School in Shinyaga, Mr Makasa Nyombi said that the training came at the right time as they highly need skills on how to support children with disabilities in an inclusive environment.

He also commented that the challenge is that teachers are not adjusting their teaching strategies to students’ needs and cultural diversity.

If we change, students can propel to the heights of their potentials,” he commented.

A question to reflect, according to workshop organizers, is that are Tanzanian curricula adaptive enough to accommodate all learners? Are the teachers knowledgeable and skilled enough to accommodate all learners including those with disabilities to learn? How ready are Tanzanians to respond to the diversity of learners with disabilities in an inclusive environment?

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