May 23, 2013 | 09:40 AM (BD Time)
23 May, 2013 Thursday
Disabled girls more vulnerable to gender discrimination
Md. Sazedul Islam:
Noor Jahan, a nine-year-old girl, wants to go to school like other children of her age but her physical disabilities have stood in the way of pursuing her dream.
Her father, a poor man, also wants her daughter to be educated. But he does not know how it is possible. Noor Jahan lost her eyesight due to typhoid at the age of three. She is the third among six children of her parents. She had problem in communication, socialization, cognition and performing her self-care activities.
It was difficult for her to move around in her neigbourhood and even in her home.
Noor Jahan, daughter of day labourer Mohammad Rojob Ali, resident of Choto Maharajpur village in Sirajganj, has never been to school. Her parents want her to be able to be independent and do her own work by herself.
Amid their worries came forward an NGO, Child Sight Foundation (CSF), which works for the disabled people.
There is nothing unique in Noor Jahan's story. There are many other disabled children in the country who were deprived of education.
In many cases, disabled children were barred from admitting into schools due to opposition by teachers and students though there is no law restricting their admission into inclusive school.
The children unable to fulfill their daily needs due to physical and mental problems need special education, competent remedial measures, and special care nursing. The principal aim of special education is to help the handicapped establish themselves in the society through special programs depending on their degree of disability.
All children have a right to education. Children with disability are no exception. No matter how serious or severe their disability may be, children should be able to tap into their fullest potential.
It is specifically stated in Article 23 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that disabled children have a right to enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions that promote independence and community inclusion. It must be recognized that children learn and develop in different ways and at different rates. As such, it is important to create a learning environment that responds to the needs of each child. Inclusion of disabled children in mainstream education is one of the only ways to provide learning for all children. Support services need to be brought to the child, and not vice versa. Teachers and classrooms must adapt in order to accommodate children with special needs.
In Bangladesh, there is no available official data about the prevalence and degrees of disabilities and participation in education of people in the country.
CSF, have recently reviewed (mid term evaluation report of community based rehabilitation and education programme of CSF) childhood blindness situation in Bangladesh. The review found the following: Two Bangladesh studies Rahman 2004 and Anam 2002 indicate that 96% of disabled children do not attend school. Of the disabled children who attend school, only 13% are visually impaired.
Traditionally, disability has been seen as a medical concern. However, there is a growing realization that the greatest problems facing children with disabilities are prejudice, social isolation and discrimination in society.
Disability is a barrier to education. But the problems related to attitude, accessibility to existing facilities/options and awareness level of others also act as barriers for the education of the girls and women with disabilities.
Recent studies in Bangladesh suggest that vast majority of children with disabilities never attended schools and that a large percentage of the ones who do attend mainstream schools soon drop out due to inaccessible school infrastructure, lack of learning scopes, improper learning process and unfriendly school environment.
Many of the schools are not open to the idea of education of children with disabilities; even if a few are casually included, they encounter negative treatment where the peer students are not sensitized on disability issues, teachers have no training, etc.
One further social problem faced by both children and adults with disabilities, especially amongst the females are various types of abuse. Women with disabilities appear to be at high risk for emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Fear of such abuse often prevents parents of children with disabilities, especially girls, from sending them to schools. A recent study suggested that 92% of young girls and adult women were subjected to one type of abuse or other.
Accessibility to the educational institution is one of the major problems for girls and women with physical disabilities. Girls with disabilities residing in hostels face problems due to absence of female house parent which limits sharing of feminine and other essential needs. The most humiliating thing is that the teachers are also involved in teasing their disabled learners.
The overall reality in Bangladesh is that of an unequal educational system, a rigid and learner-unfriendly education curriculum, deficiencies in the physical facilities and learning environment, teachers without adequate professional skills and without motivation to do their best, compounded by their ignorance and a lack of awareness of parents and community members.
The reasons also include absence of personal assistance in school and absence of clearly stated policy guidance.
The government of Bangladesh has taken initiatives to establish compulsory primary education through the "Education For All" program and has made it constitutional.
International and national bodies and laws advocated for education of all children highlighting its importance.
The Asia Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (1993-2002), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the National Constitution of Bangladesh, the most recent Education policy of Bangladesh (1997) and Salamanca Declaration of 1994 emphasized on ensuring education for all children on the principle of equal opportunity, the purpose of which is to develop the full potential, tolerance and gender equity of children.
CSF said it is providing home-based education for visually impaired children as part of pre-schooling. CSF staff visit door to door and provide Braille instruments to the children and prepare them for their admission to nearby school.
So far, 340 visually-impaired children from Sirajganj and Naogaon districts were brought the under education programme of CSF from 2006. Some of them even studied upto college and varsity level.
CSF said it doing necessary things to ensure education for the visually impaired children.
National literacy goal of Bangladesh is to ensure 100% literacy rate by the year 2015. If this 100% target is to be achieved, education needs of children with disabilities cannot be ignored.
A little awareness, willingness and certain interventions combined together can change such situations. The society must also have the attitude and willingness to acknowledge the capacities of a person with disability and recognize him/her as a useful member of the society. This positive intention must be supplemented with the opportunity of accessibility.
The educational institutions need to be adequately prepared both to increase enrolment and to meet the challenges of quality education for children with different disabilities, including visual impairment.
The general teachers should have the knowledge of curricular adaptation techniques while teaching and they should know the techniques of involving a visually impaired child in co-curricular activities. There is need to address the training needs of general teachers in managing children with visual impairment in the
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