As part of efforts at ensuring that no child is left behind in accessing basic education in Lagos State, the Lagos State Government, through the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB), on Friday, 26 June, 2020 organised a stakeholders’ meeting on ways to meet the needs of special needs children during and post Covid-19.
In his address at the meeting held at LASUBEB office, Maryland Ikeja, the Executive Chairman of LASUBEB, Hon. Wahab Alawiye-king disclosed that the meeting became important so as to ensure that critical stakeholders are included and kept abreast of policy formulations especially in adopting new strategies to ensure that special needs pupils are not left behind.
He also stated that that would ensure that inclusive units of school are carried along in the E-learning platforms which have been introduced by the board while since the lockdowns.
The board chairman noted that the disruption caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic made it imperative to rethink old ways and design new methods at ensuring that children, especially those with special needs continue to learn despite school closure.
He emphasised the strong desire of the administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to include everyone as outlined in the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda which ensures that every child has access to inclusive and compulsory education in the state as clearly spelt out in the education policy of the State. This policy, he said, ensures that special needs pupils are adequately catered for.
“It is our firm belief that every child has the right to education irrespective of their multi-dimensional challenges and Lagos State does not only fulfil this rights but run a blanket system through which it’s inclusive education policies ensure that no child is left behind”, he said.
The Board Chairman noted that the reason for the Stakeholders’ meeting was to review the document setting up the special needs pupils units in primary schools in order to come up with recommendations that would adequately cater for these pupils through the use of modern technology to aid their learning.
Alawiye-King commended the special needs teachers for their dedication during the school closure, hailing them as ‘Education Frontline Workers’, while imploring parents and guardians to show love, care, and dedication to special needs pupils as the government plays its own part in ensuring that these children get the best education.
The board member of LASUBEB in charge of Social Mobilisation and Structured Distance Learning, Mrs. Sijuade Tiamiyu, in her address noted that one of the purposes of the strategic meeting was to bring together special needs teachers and heads of inclusive units to brainstorm on best ways to engage the pupils. As frontline teachers who understand the situation better, their recommendations are important.
She, however, noted that the board would look into ways to ensure that special needs teachers are strategically included in the production of educational content to be uploaded on the E-learning platforms of the board, stating that special needs students are also entitled to qualitative learning. She said that despite school closure, special needs pupils are still being catered for.
“There is no separate society for special needs, every child belongs to this society therefore they are entitled to the same quality education that normal students enjoy”, she added.
In her remarks, the acting Board Secretary of LASUBEB, Mrs. Olubunmi Oteju said that the recommendations at the Stakeholders’ meeting would be adequately looked into and that plans are ongoing to ensure that all primary schools in Lagos State have inclusive units to cater for special needs Pupils. She also listed the various interventions for special needs pupils during the school closure as collaborations with NGOs to provide palliative support for 300 parents of special needs pupils, training of instructors on the use of right language, sensitisation of parents on the use of structured distance learning, amongst others.
It should be noted that Lagos State was the first state in Nigeria to start the inclusive unit in schools. It currently has 2,975 students with special needs in 31 units spread across primary schools in 3 Local Government Areas and has 5 exclusive schools for special children with intellectual disability, hearing impairment, autism, down syndrome, physically challenged amongst others.