Push for inclusive education

Invest resources to accommodate kids with disabilities
MP Hilaria Mukapuli is advocating for all schools to welcome children with disabilities and has called for an investigation into the barriers that prevent these children from attending school.
Elizabeth Joseph
The inclusion of children with disabilities should be prioritised at all Namibian schools, and barriers that prevent children with disabilities from attending school investigated.

So says parliamentarian Hilaria Mukapuli in a motion submitted to parliament. “Children with disabilities who are not in schools are not attending for various reasons, and it is very important to investigate the barriers that prevent children with disabilities from being enrolled at schools.”

She said schools should be equipped with classrooms that accommodate children with severe disabilities. Mukapuli urged the education ministry "to provide us with a list of the current resource and inclusive schools throughout the country, as well as with an action plan since they have the mandate to plan and build schools."

She also called on corporate Namibia to join the education ministry in realising this vision. “I am well aware that we do not have enough resource schools," she noted, but added: "I am suggesting all schools in Namibia should be accommodating children with disabilities and different needs."

Steep barriers

Mukapuli shared the example of 13-year-old Makanga Mushongo from Rundjarara village to highlight the importance of action on the matter.

“The child cannot walk, and he did not have a wheelchair for many years and could therefore not attend the nearest school in his village. His parents could not carry him to the school and the environment is also very sandy," she said.

"They have waited for a wheelchair for a long time, and he only got one this year. It was also not possible to enrol the child in a school with a hostel because most schools in the Kavango Region have hostels only for children from grade eight onwards."

Mukapuli emphasised: "It was therefore mainly the absence of a wheelchair that prevented this child from attending school." Mukapuli added that “special schools have a negative connotation” and “children must be taught in their environment and in all schools."

Not trained

Trade Union Congress of Namibia (TUCNA) president Mahongora Kavihuhua said teachers are unqualified and not trained to care for children with disabilities.

'They're not trained whatsoever,' he said, referring to specialised skills and training needed to conduct special needs education. How practical will that be, and how many teachers are available in the market for them to deal with those situations if those schools have to be opened up? And other policies talk about the learner-teacher ratio," he noted.

"If you have to open that, it means that you have to have inclusive education. So the teachers must evolve those kinds of skills to deal with the learners that are not challenged, in terms of disability, and those that are challenged,” he told Namibian Sun.