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THE CONCEPT OF INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
Primary education is the foundation of all educational endeavours, structures, policies and progress of any nation. No nation can afford to play with the future of her citizens. Lawani (2006), reflects that education represents an instrument in human development and that primary education is the foundation. He expatiates that if this foundation is weak or poor, it will negatively impact on the rest of the educational structure. It is therefore, very important to give primary education the priority attention it deserves in the scheme of things in every society.
The Nigerian policy on education (2004), endorses that primary education is designed to cater for children of between six and eleven years. Primary education in Nigeria according to the policy is to produce citizens who can contribute meaningfully to the development of the nation. Nwufo (2004), states that for effective citizenship, the following are required: permanent literacy and numeracy; oracy; manipulative skills; good health habits; a sense of belonging; material consciousness; character and moral training; scientific attitude; social and cultural values; language art and dignity of labour.
Gary & Ghesley (1997) state that our national obsession with the inclusion of special education students into the mainstream is analogous to the description of a liberal as an individual who frantically throws 200 feet of rope to a drowning swimmer struggling only 100 feet from the shore. The liberal throws the rope in the conviction that he is saving another life. Then he scampers frantically down the beach, seeking other souls to save, before he puts the original dying victim to safety. His good intentions are misguided and provide us with a lesson about how schools treat individuals with disabilities.
Afoi and Ewuola (2013) see inclusive education as the education in which all students or learners attend and are welcomed by their neighborhood schools in age-appropriate to their regular classmates and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school. This is about how we develop and design our schools, classrooms, programmes and activities so that all students can learn and participate together. Neighborhood schools are the heart of our communities. proponents of inclusion believe in the essentials for a quality inclusive education system. All children no matter their conditions benefit from inclusive education as it allows them to do the following:
* Develop individual strengths and gifts, with high and appropriate expectations for each child.
* Work on individual goals while participating in the life of the classroom with other children of their own age.
* Foster a school culture of respect and belonging.
* Inclusive education provides opportunities to learn about and accept individual differences, lessening the impact of harassment and bullying.
* Develop friendships with a wide variety of other children, each with their own individual needs and abilities.
* Positively affect both their school and community to appreciate diversity and inclusion on a broader level.
The Need for Inclusive Education.
The need to value our diverse communities is a moral value. The communities start at school, where all students learn to live alongside peers. They learn together, play together, grow and are nurtured together. The target of inclusive education is meant for every learner, because some learners need to spend time out of regular class for a particular purpose. There are always exceptions, which are individualized in the students’ community school.
Afoi and Ewuola (2013) state that when a child with special needs attends classes alongside peers who do not have special needs, good things happen; there are usually positive academic and social outcomes for the children involved. Inclusive education is based on the simple idea that every child and family is valued equally and deserves the same opportunities and experiences. It involves children with special needs-whether the disability is mild or severe, hidden or obvious participating in everyday activities, just like they would if their special needs were not present. This type of education entails building friendships, membership and having opportunities just like everyone else.
Inclusive education creates an avenue for providing the help children need in order to learn and participate meaningfully in educational activities. Sometimes, help from friends or teachers work best. At other times, specially designed materials or technology is helpful. The key is to give only as much help as needed. It should be noted that inclusive education is a child’s right, and not a privilege, because all children should be treated with equal right.
Every school should be committed to providing safe, supportive, inclusive and disciplined learning environments that provide educational opportunities for all students where all students:
* Feel a strong sense of belonging.
* Learn to interact respectfully with others.
* Learn to understand and appreciate diversity and
* All parents and career providers in the community can take an active role in the life of the school.
It should be noted that inclusive education program school include:
a. Fostering a learning community that questions disadvantage and challenges social injustice.
b. Maximizing the educational and social outcomes of all children through identification and re-education of barriers to learning, especially for those who are vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion.
c. Ensuring that all children understand and value diversity so that they have the knowledge and skills for positive participation in a just, equitable and democratic global society.
The current wave of special Needs Educational demand supports schools to deliver education that is inclusive of all students through supporting them with specialized health needs such as:
* Learning and disability support.
* Gifted education.
* Recognition and valuing of diversity in culture, language, religion, gender and sexuality.
* Recognition of the needs of students who are refugees, carers, pregnant and parenting or in out-of-home care.
* Student mental health wellbeing initiatives.
* Equity in education.
The concept of inclusive education is accepting and educating children in their neighbourhood irrespective of their challenges. It also helps children to socialize and learn in the same environment. Societies should provide an excellent scheme for inclusive education for other schools to copy in order effective implementation of the programme.
CHAPTER ONE REVISION QUESTIONS
i. Briefly explain the term inclusive education.
ii. Identify any three justifications for inclusive education.
iii. Why is inclusive education necessary in our schools today?
iv. State any five supports needed for inclusive setting.
v. Identify any five current support for special needs education.
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