BY ALEX TAREMWA
Joy Uganda, an organisation supporting people with disabilities, has called for the adoption of a special needs education policy in the country.
“Special needs education programmes, especially in public schools, are either lacking or non-existent. We need to have an all-inclusive education that accommodates people with disabilities,” Eunmi Cho, a special education professor at California State University, Sacramento told The Standard.
The conference co-hosted by Joy Uganda and Uganda Christian University (UCU), is being held under the theme: “Beyond the Horizon” and it aims at charting a way forward and enhancing awareness for PWDs in order to influence laws and policies to cater for their special needs.
While launching the conference at UCU, Mukono, the Vice Chancellor, Dr John Senyonyi, acknowledged that Uganda is indeed in desperate need of experts in the field of children with disabilities and appreciated Joy Uganda’s efforts and partnership to address the cause through sensitisation and research.
“I regret to admit that the university has been structurally excluding students with disabilities as most buildings are not accommodative of such students. However, the administration is gradually restructuring to have elevators and ramps on all new buildings,” he said.
He added that besides the guild ministry catering for students with disabilities, the university is yet to adopt a policy that will give a conclusive framework for inclusion of people with disabilities at UCU.
“This policy has been in the works for about three years. I just realised last week that we have not adopted it yet. It will help in increasing inclusive education for PWDs,” Senyonyi said.
Senyonyi attributed the stigmatisation and discrimination of people with disabilities in Uganda to the general lack in understanding of children’s needs coupled with the lack of resources to implement the adopted policies.
Despite the challenges, he called for a multi-sectoral approach in addressing issues facing children with disabilities. These sectors include families, the church, education institutions, and the government.
“One of the most difficult things to change about people is their attitudes. If you want to change one’s attitude, you have to change one’s heart. This calls for awareness to appeal to the little compassion in people’s hearts so they become tolerant of children with special needs,” Senyonyi said.
The conference, which took place which took place from June 14 -17, addressed the special education needs of children, the inclusiveness of social welfare systems in Africa and how teacher training programmes can change the intolerant paradigm to understanding and acceptance of children with special needs.
Joy Uganda, a subsidiary of the United States-based Joy Center for the Disabled, supports children and families through its learning center in Mukono. They also provide special education and counseling through home visitation services for children with disabilities who are not able to go to school.