The director for special and inclusive education at the Ministry of Education, Mohamed Konneh, says Liberia, like most developing countries, has inadequate data on children with disabilities.
He said most estimates in the country are often inconsistent, reflecting problems in monitoring and reporting data on children with disabilities. Speaking Friday, 11 September at the Stephen TrowenNagbe United Methodist Church conference room on 13th Street in Sinkor, Monrovia during a joint workshop organized by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with Handicap International on Inclusive Education, Mr. Konneh noted that majority of the children with disabilities in Liberia have limited or no access to education.
He indicated that few, who manage to graduate from primary school,enroll in mainstream schools with no adequate support, adding, “There are very few special needs teachers in Liberia and inclusive education has not formed a part of the curriculum of the teachers training institutes.”
According to him, the idea of inclusive education is not only for students with disabilities, but incorporates sound pedagogical practices, lifting all students to rise above and beyond the expectations put forth by the Ministry of Education.
There are many barriers to education for children with disabilities in Liberia and Director Konnehlamented that one of the biggest barriers to education for children with disabilities remains the societal stigma and social exclusion of this population.
He disclosed that children are routinely denied access to basic education because of beliefs that some disabilities are acquired through a curse or witchcraft. “The most recent census states that there are about 11,000 students with disabilities in the public schools, yet there are no programs to train teacherson best instructional practices in education for children with disabilities.”
He emphasized that Inclusive Education in Liberia should be considered an emergency with far reaching implications and suggested a need for better planning, management and monitoring to ensure a uniform implementation throughout the nation.
“We believe, and I am sure you will agree with us that any child can be a real achiever, if we focus on their abilities as opposed to their disabilities”, he challenged the country’s educational system.
By Bridgett Milton – Edited by Jonathan Browne