Amongst several other significant days, December is also noteworthy for the International Disability day and for the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the United Nations General Assembly. On the glimmering morning of December 6, a hall was filled with colourful little angels named Rabeya, Shilamoi, Solaiman Mollah, Mitu and many more awaiting to share hitherto triumph of their journey and also to hear messages of hope from fellow citizens.
Jointly organised by SEID, HSBC and Dhaka Tribune the round-table, “Children with disability in mainstream schools: Partaking by Stakeholders” aimed at constructing a supportive society where children with disabilities can enrol without difficulties in mainstream schools and most importantly get opportunity to show their latent potential to world.
The speakers put forth various suggestions ranging from removing social barriers, orienting related stakeholders, to technological intervention where needed, the psychological aspect of citizens in general, government initiatives and appropriate long term actions for these children.
Emphasising on issues like the overall structure of education institutions, the summit’s entire discussion focused on building a disable friendly education structure. To do so involvement of the government, media, researchers, teachers, parents and most importantly non disable children is essential.
Khurshid Alam Chowdhury, Joint Secretary and Project Director, Construction of Jatiyo Protibondhi Complex, Jatiyo Protibondhi Unnayan Foundation:
“There is no curriculum for special need children. Thus implementing the appropriate curriculum is taking time. Question style and assessment policy should be based on the capabilities of these children.”
Md Mahbub-ur Rahman, Deputy CEO and Country Head of Commercial Banking, HSBC:
“Being member of the society, everyone has distinct responsibilities towards children with disabilities. This key concern is affiliated with three aspects which I considered as important; These are leadership, awareness and sustainability. The children with disability trying to win over all the hurdles of life are actually leading millions of children like them as helping change the societal mindset. Despite all its difficulties the concern has drawn has not only drawn its required attention but is progressing ahead gradually, which is certainly a subject to joy for the humanity.”
Professor Salma Begum, Project Director, National Academy for Autism and Neuro-developmental Disabilities (NAAND), Ministry of Education:
“If we do not start preparing children with disability within the age of two to eight through early intervention, it’s really hard for these children to improve later on. Also changing the way of thinking is what we need most. We should consider these children as assets for the country and only then the country can grow in a true sense. Active involvement of every faction of the society can truly enable meaningful implementation of government’s initiative.”
Ranjan Karmaker, Chairperson, SEID:
“Children with disability require assistance to carry out daily activities. However, it’s not only the society that has an unfavourable view of the children with disability children but often it is also the family of the disabled as well who hold such views. Our concern is to change mindset. Even though helping them become self dependent should be a principle goal, success in other areas shouldn’t be ignored. Initiatives are necessary to help integrate them into the mainstream society. They are endowed with hidden talent. The only way to change the situation is lending the hand of support so that they can become contributing members of society”
Zafar Sobhan, Editor, Dhaka Tribune:
“This open dialogue among special children, academics, government officials works as a platform that informs us about what is needed and what can be done to build awareness and inclusion of children with disability into the mainstream. The problem shouldn’t be seen as theirs, but of the nation. We stand beside them and hope to raise more awareness.”
Mr Md Khairul Islam, Project Manager, Removing Cultural Barriers (RCB)-Project, ActionAid Bangladesh:
“There is hardly any reflection on vision of including children with disability in mainstream schools. There are many challenges that prevent children with special needs from enrolling in mainstream schools, ultimately hampering their education. For an inclusive education system, early screening to identify children with disabilities and the type and nature of their disabilities, early child care development, therapeutic support in pre-primary stage, and accessible learning method are indispensable. With so much lacking how is it possible to integrate these children in the mainstream?”
Dr Khondaker A Mamun, Associate Professor, United International University:
“Technology is the best tool to assess various disabilities and to determine where we can include and where we cannot. Implementation of specialised technologies in developing behaviour and attitude of children with disabilities can help them get into mainstream schools.”
Dr Sharmin Huq, Professor, Department of Special Education, Institute of Education and Research, University of Dhaka:
“There are many existing resources that can be used, one such example is Upazila Resources Centre. Along with mainstream students, special children can also use it if these resource centres can be enriched by adding required assistive devices.”
Badsha Mia, Assistant Director, Department of Primary Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education:
“Every child should be enrolled in a primary school. To make the process more smooth every school’s headmaster will be required to attend a five days workshop, which has already started. Also there is a budget for providing assistive devices among students by the government.”
Dr Mahmudur Rahman, Professor, Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Dhaka:
“A basic understanding of human psychology by the society at large is very important. A child should be accepted the way he is. There is a need of increasing private and public organisations that can work jointly for the betterment of these children. Also I think we need to have a coherent plan on the national level.”
Laila Karim, Manager, Advocacy and Communication, Child Protection, Save the Children:
“We take disability seriously only when someone close suffers from it. Before that it’s a distant matter. As citizens, everyone should have the basic knowledge about disability. The learning shouldn’t come only when a family member is afflicted. Also, information such as where or to whom a patient should be taken should become common knowledge. Communities should get rid of social stigma about disability and NGOs should be encouraged to expand their work beyond projects.
Shilamoni, Child under school readiness program:
“My one year duration with mainstream school was not so pleasant. No one was willing to understand my barrier. Yet, no matter what the circumstance is and will be I will pursue my education to carry on with my dream of being self independent one day.”
Solaiman Mollah, Child enrolled in mainstream school,
“Besides having lots of friends in my new school named Confidence Junior High School, here teachers also adore me and encourage me to study.”
Sonia Farzana, Teacher, Alif Ideal Public School:
“Previously we didn’t have any experience of teaching special children. Having worked with SEID, we are now more knowledgeable about how to take care and teach them. My hope is that they will become self dependent.”
Tania Sultana, Teacher, Adviser School:
“By lending our hand towards people with disability and support them in their journey will enable them to transform and stop being the “burden” for the society. We will give our best to equip them with what they need. However, the appropriate authority should look facilitate their employment.”
Parvin Akter, Teacher, SEID, (Conducted field and school visit):
“During visits in different schools, we encountered the problems they face, such as inability to understand class instruction, following class routine and many more. Effectively communicating with them requires special effort such as speaking slowly. Collective efforts of parents and teachers do bring about noticeable changes.”
Ms. Nasima Akter, Mother:
“I was terrified by the thought of her future life, whether she will be able to attain education or not. But now she is doing well, much more attentive in her studies than before. Although she is now studying in a mainstream school, she still gets counselling from teachers from SEID.”
Shamim Akter Runu, Mother:
“My family had faced immense difficulties. We didn’t know where to go, what to do. Since last year, my child is under SEID’s supervision. If she gets enrolled in a mainstream school, she will no longer be considered a burden of society. I urge everyone to find and help people who are still unaware of facilities like SEID.”