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School Systems Adopted a Discriminatory Approach against Persons with Disabilities, Leading to Depriving them of Education

2014-09-07

A study prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stressed the theme of education without discrimination. It noted that school systems adopted a discriminatory approach against persons with disabilities who were deprived of their right to education.

 

Some students are excluded from the educational system on the basis of their disability, without being offered any other educational opportunity. Others are sent to schools designed to treat a specific disability, usually within a special educational system, whereby they are separated from other pupils. Finally, some students are included in regular schools as long as they are able to adapt to the standards in place in these schools.

 

According to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, inclusive education is an essential component of the right to education for all, including persons with disabilities, without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity.

 

The study shows that the integration of pupils with disabilities requires the elimination of barriers that restrict or prohibit their participation in the general educational system. It also requires a change in the cultures, policies and practices of regular schools to accommodate the needs of all pupils, including those with disabilities.

 

Inclusive education provides a platform for combating stigma and discrimination. It also empowers persons with disabilities to participate fully in society as they usually suffer from an inappropriate rise in unemployment rates.

 

The study proposes that educational systems should prohibit the rejection of students in regular schools on the basis of disability and that they should encourage the transfer of students with disabilities from specialized centers to regular schools. Schools should also ensure non-discrimination by reasonably taking those needs into account. This means that schools will have to make appropriate accommodations as necessary to ensure that students with disabilities are able to attend and participate in education on an equal footing with other students.

 

Curricula and test methods in schools should be adapted to ensure that pupils with disabilities have access to an inclusive, quality and free primary and secondary education on an equal basis with others.

 

The study also recommends the recruitment of qualified sign language and Braille teachers, in addition to training specialists at all educational levels to raise awareness on disabilities and the use of appropriate communication and educational techniques.

 

After secondary education, persons with disabilities should have lifelong learning options in a way that adequately meets their continuing educational needs.

 

The study recognizes that the establishment of inclusive educational systems requires the adoption of immediate non-discriminatory measures, in addition to changing the existing legislative and policy framework with the full involvement of persons with disabilities.

 

The director of educational programs at the Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, Ghadeer Al-Hares, confirmed the importance of including students with disabilities in schools at a young age and based on their disability. The process should start with early diagnosis, training parents to accept a child with a disability and how to deal with the child. Then, it moves on to the nursery stage, where the Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities works in coordination with the Ministry of Social Development to prepare nurseries in a good and appropriate manner to receive children with disabilities based on their disabilities. They also train their employees on how to deal with them, with the exception of some severe cases that belong in specialized disability centers. Al-Hares adds that the inclusion of students in schools is slow especially by the concerned authorities in the Ministries of Education and Social Development. Those two ministries failed to include disability on their list of priorities and strategic plans. Additionally, they do not have a sufficient budget allocated to it. There are 11 schools for the deaf under the wings of the Ministry of Education lacking in qualified staff and training programs like sign language and disability programs.

 

She pointed out that the Council is currently purchasing educational services for more than 2000 students, and this depletes the Council’s budget. It also offers transportation services for students to join inclusive schools and to facilitate the process of enrollment and transportation. In addition, 45 teachers were trained in cooperation with UNESCO on sign language use in the classroom.

 

She stressed that we should not forget the importance of these students receiving university education and facilitating the environment and atmosphere that is appropriate for them. Students apply annually to official universities through the unified admissions list to all disciplines except medicine and dentistry. 126 students out of 127 were accepted: in one case the student had made a bad choice. 78 students were accepted in their first choice of university. This shows the importance of completing their educational journeys without putting obstacles in their way.

 

Moreover, students with disabilities receive a 90% discount of the total tuition fees in accordance with the Ministry of Higher Education decision (320) on 19 September 2007 as agreed upon by the Council and the Ministry. The students also benefit from Prince Ra’ad's grant for students with disabilities, which is 150 Dinars given to students at the beginning of each semester as an aid to meet their learning needs.

 

While studying at university, every blind student is allocated a laptop and a sign language interpreting machine. This is done in coordination with the Deanship of Student Affairs at universities and through a special division for students with disabilities. Their observations are noted through their division.

 

The President of the Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, His Highness Prince Mired bin Ra’ad published an article in local newspapers urging the Ministry of Education to adopt a/ an comprehensive/ inclusive education methodology, which is considered the building block for the participation of people with disabilities in society. This approach does not exclude children, especially those with disabilities from education. It enhances the abilities and experiences of children with disabilities, changes misconceptions about them and helps their non-disabled peers in accepting their differences. Inclusive education requires providing educational opportunities for all students within the compulsory education system, which enables children with disabilities and their non-disabled peers to attend the exact classes that are suitable for their ages. It also provides the necessary additional support to each of them individually to suit their needs.

 

In 2013, a UNICEF report focused on the situation of children around the world and included data from household surveys conducted in 13 low to moderate income countries. The report showed that the probability of enrollment of children with disabilities aged 6 to 17 years in school is far lower than that for children without disabilities. Therefore, unlike their peers without disabilities, children with disabilities are deprived of their right to education. Consequently, Jordan cannot comply to the second goal of the Millennium Development Goals, namely, a universal primary education, a commitment to the Convention on the rights of the Child and boosting the right of children with disabilities to education as one of the most marginalized and excluded groups in this area.

 

Director of the Special Education Department at the Ministry of Education, Dr. Saleh al-Khalayleh, underlined the tripartite agreement signed among the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Development and the Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities. By this agreement, persons with simple and moderate disabilities will be included in schools. However, the process needs time and effort spent in training teachers and qualifying them to deal with these students. This is in addition to raising awareness among the local community of students and their parents to accept these students and to consider them an essential part of society.

 

Inclusive education already exists in some schools, and we worked on preparing new schools with facilitative and environmental arrangements to suit the nature of those students’ disabilities. Additionally, schools for the deaf and an academy for the blind have been established.