By Diana Omueza
Abuja, Nov. 18, 2020 The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul, a congregation of Reverend Sisters, has urged the federal government, States government and Stakeholders across the country to design programmes and organise educational forums that would promote inclusive education.
Rev. Sister Fidelia Unigwe, the programme Coordinator of the Child Empowerment Programme of the organisation said this on Tuesday in Abuja during its one day disability learning exchange with its partner organisations and state directors of rehabilitation.
The programme was organised through the coordination office for the Child Empowerment Programme in Nigeria, supported by the Liliane Foundation, an international Non-Governmental Organisation.
Unigwe said that the essence of the programme was to facilitate collaboration between its partner organisations, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), line ministries, commissions, boards and agencies responsible for disability affairs at the state level.
“In order to enhance disability inclusion especially in education government at all levels, relevant stakeholders must formulate, design and hold forums that would boost inclusive education.
“States government in particular should be more interested in mainstreaming disability issues by ensuring that they domesticate the National Disability Act in their various state educational programmes.
“This would ensure a shift from the segregation, discrimination and charity base approach that has characterised disability interventions especially in the educational sector.
“Inclusive education remains a fundamental human right for all,” she said.
Unigwe called for periodic forums or gathering for experience sharing on the achieved successes of states in implementing provisions of disability laws and on levels of implementation of inclusive educational policies.
According to her, such forums would provide opportunities for the partnering organisations to understand the programmes of the rehabilitation departments in the state, as well as challenges and identified gaps.
“These forums would also boost the capacity of stakeholders working especially in the disability commissions or boards at the state like those at the Lagos State Office for disability Affairs (LASODA).
“Where the capacity of the partners and state actors on disability inclusion and social protection programmes and sensitisation are built, matters of disability would be easily added and mainstreamed into government plans and policies, especially in budgeting.
“These are the ways in which we can begin to record and achieve international standards of inclusive education,” she said.
Mrs Nkechi Onwukwe, the Director, Special Needs Department of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, commended the organisation for its resourcefulness in organising the timely event.
Onwukwe said that the meeting was in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which also focus on education with emphasis on ‘Leaving no one behind’ on the basis of disability.
According to her, there is a need for a more inclusive approach to development where every person is given equal opportunity both as contributor and as beneficiaries.
“Participants here should join forces to reduce barriers to inclusion in all spheres both in public and in private sector,” she said.
Onwukwe distributed copies of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities Prohibition (Act) 2018 and the National Policy on Disability in Nigeria while also reiterating the ministry’s commitment toward supporting the group and other organisations in the fight for inclusion.
Mr Rasak Adekoya, Programme Officer at Sightsavers Nigeria, a participants at the forum, advocated the use of more honourable words in describing PWDs.
He lamented that both in English and in the Nigerian local languages PWDs were being referred to with derogatory words which were hurtful and depressing.
Mrs Ekaete Umoh, the National President of Joint National Association of Person’s with Disabilities in Nigeria (JONAPWD), also harped on wrong terminologies used in describing PWDs and its social and psychological impact.
“A PWDs is already struggling with the reality of being identified as unfit in the society.
“Adding derogatory ways or words to describe such a person is adding salt to injury which should not be,” she said.
Other participants at the meeting advocated provisions of social protection, special bursary for PWDs in tertiary institutions, public assistive devices such as ramps, signage and public interpreters for the deaf.
The participants at the meeting were directors of rehabilitation from Lagos, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Niger, Abia, Rivers, Plateau, Benue, Imo and Ebonyi, members of the Leprosy Mission, Disability Right Fund (DRF), Center for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), Et cetera.