Unlocking an Inclusive Society for Persons with Disabilities in Southern Africa

sadc_ministers_strategy

ADA and SAFOD were among the observer delegates at the Ministers Meeting. From right to left: Chief Executive Officer of ADA, Mr. Kudakwashe Dube; Director General of SAFOD, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula; and Programs Manager of SAFOD , Mr. George Kayange

On 30th June 2016, SADC Ministers responsible for Education and Training and Science, Technology and Innovation met in Gaborone, Botswana, to review various draft policy documents and consider some for adoption.
One of such policy documents that were reviewed was the draft Southern Africa Education Inclusive Strategy for Learners with Disabilities which they unanimously approved after deliberation and consideration.
The need to develop the Inclusive Education Strategy was first brought to the attention of the line ministers at their meeting in Maputo, Mozambique in 2013, where they noted that a draft Inclusive Education Strategy was being developed as part of the Project on Promoting Inclusive Education for learners with Disabilities.
The strategy was informed by the findings and recommendations from a study on education for children with disabilities in Southern African conducted in 2010 by the Africa Disability Alliance (ADA). Subsequently, the strategy was developed through a consultative process in the region which included an experts meeting consisting of representatives from governments of Swaziland and Zimbabwe, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs), United Nations Agencies and Institutes of Higher Learning in the region held in March 2015 and a validation meeting of officials from SADC Member States held 16-17 June 2016.
The purpose of the Strategy is to make issues pertaining to access to quality education for learners with disabilities an integral part of all SADC Member States policies and programmes. The Strategy has six strategic priorities as follows: Policy development and harmonization of policies and programmes that will enhance access to quality education for all learners with disabilities; Capacity development and strengthening for implementation of a comprehensive inclusive education system that will benefit learners with disabilities; Scaling up and sharing of regional and national good practices; Promoting and strengthening of evidence based programmes planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Mobilization and allocation of adequate resources by SADC member states and partners; and Monitoring and evaluation of implementation of inclusive education system with including learners with disabilities.
SAFOD was among the strategic partners that participated at the Inclusive Education Experts Workshop organized by ADA held at Holiday Inn Johannesburg Airport from 16th – 20th March 2015. Besides the draft SADC Inclusive Education Strategy for Learners with Disabilities, the workshop also discussed 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) had been coordinating the process of drafting the strategy with financial support from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). Throughout the process, ADA had been ensuring that all inputs from the different SADC countries and other partners had been incorporated accordingly before the document could endorsed by SADC responsible for Education and Training and Science, Technology and Innovation. SAFOD has been identified as one of the key stakeholders tasked with the responsibility of advocating for the implementation of the strategy.
Ahead of the Heads of State Summit to be held in August 2016 in Swaziland, the endorsement of the Inclusive Education by the ministers is, therefore, considered by both ADA and SAFOD as a significant milestone in the whole process of ensuring that the strategy becomes an official SADC document that can be owned and implemented by the SADC member States. SAFOD is now geared to champion the implementation through a series of awareness activities of the strategic among both Member States and other stakeholders.

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