Monday, June 16, 2014

Relax, It's SpedEx

From the June 7th edition of The Guardian: Tanzania Lacks Special Needs Education Experts

Tanzania has only 134 special education experts distributed in several municipalities, the Parliament was told yesterday. 

Out of them, seven have certificate qualifications, 51 are diploma holders, and 76 attained a degree in special needs at the University of Dodoma, Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University (SEKOMU), or Patandi Teacher Training Institute. 

Aggrey Mwanri, the Deputy Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (Regional Administration and Local Governments), told MPs that the government was aware of challenges in the provision of special education and was working hard to improve the situation. 

He was responding to a question from Special Seats MP Al-Shymaa Kwegyir (CCM) who wanted the government to state the number of special education officers in the country, following an outcry on the dire shortage. 

The MP also wanted to know their level of education, if it goes with the challenges facing students with special education, saying that special education teachers are mostly deployed to normal schools.  This leaves special schools with serious shortage of teachers, she stated. 

"Can the government tell the House if it plans to recruit more teachers for special education in the ongoing teachers' recruitment?" she demanded. 

Jennister Mhagama, the Deputy Minister for Education and Vocational Training, responded saying the government would recruit students for special education training. 

There is a big problem in the provision of special education due to inadequate staff in the sector but plans are underway to reduce the problem, she said. 

Another Special Seats MP, Dr. Mary Mwanjelwa (CHADEMA) said the needs and rights of disabled children in the country are neglected in education programs.

There are poor enrollment rates and high drop-out rates, and children and parents who are left out feel disheartened.

"Disabled children should be able to learn in regular schools, just like others," she emphasized, maintaining that the special education system only meets the needs of a few. 

A breadth of education experts assert that special schools are expensive to establish and run, and by segregating disabled children they inadvertently contribute to their permanent exclusion. 

Quite apart from this, the best chance a disabled child usually has for an education is through inclusion in a mainstream school. 

Records of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training show that fewer than five percent of disabled children in Tanzania go to school.

Even if they can get there, sustaining that vital education isn't easy; inaccessible buildings, a lack of suitable teaching materials, and a shortage of teachers make for a difficult learning environment.  Especially needed are teachers who know sign language and understand Braille.

All of this is compounded by the negative attitudes of education authorities and society in general.

"There is a growing concern on whether we care for education of people with disabilities," the MP intoned. 

People feel that there have not been effective plans to ensure that students with disabilities are given adequate support to access quality education at all levels.

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