Unlocking an Inclusive Society for Persons with Disabilities in Southern Africa

SAFOD was among the participants at the Inclusive Education Experts Workshop organized by the Africa Disability Alliance (ADA) held at Holiday Inn Johannesburg Airport from 16th – 20th March 2015.

The workshop discussed the draft SADC Inclusive Education Strategy for Learners with Disabilities; the draft Data collection tools on learners with disabilities in Southern Africa; and the draft Training manual for special education needs teachers.

ADA (formerly the Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities) has been coordinating the process of drafting the strategy with financial support from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). Throughout the process, ADA has been ensuring that all inputs from the different SADC countries and other partners have been incorporated accordingly before the document is endorsed by SADC [Southern Africa Development Community].

The document presents the SADC strategy on enhancing access to education, within an inclusive education system, for learners with disabilities. While its focus is access to education for learners with disabilities, this focus is conceptualized within an inclusive education system.

The strategy contributes towards the implementation of the SADC regional indicative strategic development plan with main focus to the social and human development goal which is “to contribute to the reduction of human poverty and to improve the availability of educated, well informed, skilled, healthy, flexible, culturally responsive, productive and efficient human resources for the promotion of SADC’s equitable economic growth, deeper integration and its competitiveness in the global economy”.

The Strategic Framework and Programme of Action mark the first deliberate effort to mount a regional response to the growing challenges of learners with disabilities in SADC.  The Framework recognises the complexity of the matter and in that regard, has adopted a holistic and integrated approach to ensure comprehensive access to education for learners with disabilities.

On the other hand, the other document that was reviewed during the workshop the draft Training manual for special education needs teachers, was geared at aiding teachers in Primary Schools in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zambia to support learners with learning differences.

The rational underlying the manual was the belief that specific human abilities and skills could be meaningfully developed and increased as a result of changed behavior and mind-sets or attitudes by trainees with regard to learners with differences, applying of appropriate exercises and ongoing commitment to learners with differences.

Apparently, the workshops came at a time when SAFOD had already started preparations to organize the Southern Africa Inclusive Education Symposium in January 2016.  The workshop therefore was an eye opener to SAFOD as its representatives – the Director General, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula, and Programs Manager, Mr. George Kayange – drew important lessons and ideas in terms of how they would subsequently develop the framework for the Inclusive Education Symposium whose objective is mainly to showcase and take stock of what may have worked and what may have not by 2016, thereby creating a platform of learning.

The delegates to the symposium are expected to utilize the event for sharing lessons learnt, experiences and evidence-based data that can ultimately shape the Post 2015 Agenda as regards Inclusive Education.

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