The Vice-Chancellor, Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete, Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allah, has appealed to government and people of Nigeria to pay more attention to issues affecting persons with special needs, to enable them realise their full potential.
This came just as experts in the field of Special Education identified Inclusive Education as a means of giving equal educational opportunities for persons with disabilities and their able-bodied counterparts in the country.
They stated this at a Symposium organised by the Department of Special Education, KWASU, in collaboration with the state Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development, to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2016.
Held on Monday, December 12, 2016, at the KWASU International Conference Centre, Ilorin, the event held with the theme “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want: The Sustainable Development Goals” was the fourth of its kind by the University.
Pointing out that KWASU is the only University in the North Central Nigeria with a Department of Special Education, the Vice-Chancellor noted that the department is committed to training young minds who will not only teach students with special needs, but also those with high incidence disabilities.
“Our goal is to say we have traditional area of Special Needs which we focus on in Nigeria but there is High Incidence area which people don’t think about. We felt that as a University, this is going to be our call; this is an area we will develop and ensure that we bring out research and develop excellence, so that we lead our nation into paying more attention to the High Incidence area,” he added.
He said education in the 21st Century is an inclusive one, as it discourages all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities, stressing that Nigeria is losing because of her inability to provide equal opportunities for all citizens and tap into their resources for national development.
Na’Allah, therefore, charged the Department of Special Education to work closely with the state Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development, schools, and other stakeholders, with a view to spreading awareness about Inclusive Education and its benefits to the society.
“They must educate people and work with parents to respect their children with special needs. Unfortunately, some parents, as soon as they have children with special needs, they feel overburdened and some of them may fail to realise that these are exceptional people who will do exceptionally well for our society,” he said.
Also speaking, the Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development, Alhaji Musa Yeketi, represented by the Director, School Services, Alhaji Ismaila Ibrahim, said staff of the state-owned School for Special Needs would be trained and new ones recruited in 2017.
He added that the school’s training equipment would be upgraded to modern standard and the classrooms renovated by the State Government.
Assuring continued collaboration with KWASU, the commissioner stated that Nigeria needed to support persons with special needs to actualise their goals in life, saying “everybody is created for a purpose.”
Earlier, the Head, Department of Special Education, Professor Olaniyi Bojuwoye, had maintained that schools constitute a major context that should emphasise respect, support and celebration of human diversity through Inclusive Education.
“Promoting respect and rights of people with disabilities include providing disability-friendly services, and measures to change attitudes and practices that stigmatise and marginalise people with disabilities,” he stated.
The HOD, who also represented the Provost, College of Education, Professor Mohammed Baba Gambari, at the event, regretted that “despite many local and international provisions on recognising and respecting peoples’ rights, discrimination persists on many grounds, including disabilities, due largely to erroneous beliefs and perception of disability by people.”
Guest speakers at the symposium included Professor Esther Oduolowu of the Department of Teacher Education, Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan (now on sabbatical in KWASU); Dr. Jonathan Olukotun of the Department of Special Education, KWASU; and, Dr. Blessing Chukuka of the Department of Education for Visually Impaired, Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo.
They were unanimous in their advocacy for persons with disabilities, declaring that if the country must achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Inclusive Education is the way to go.
Coordinator, Planning Committee, Dr. Olubukola Dada, thanked the University Management, the Ministry and the participants for making the annual event a success.