A two day inclusive education workshop for lead persons and resource teachers of the 17 pilot schools where the SEEPD Programme pilots inclusive education and integrates learners with disabilities has ended in Bamenda. The workshop brought together over 45 participants at the Conference hall of the Directorate of the CBC Health Services from August 17-18, 2015.
Welcoming participants at the start of the workshop, the SEEPD Education Advisor, Mrs. Fobuzie Bridget Longla said it is customary for the SEEPD Programme to organize workshops in August each year, but noted that the workshop this year was unique because it was specifically for lead persons and resource teachers, some of who were attending for the very first time. She told participants that the desire of the SEEPD Programme is to gain knowledge that will help them take care of the children entrusted in their care in the best possible way.
For two days the participants were drilled on different topics including; differentiating instructions, designing individual education plans, the role of lead and resource persons, grassroots contribution in formulating policy, data collections and reporting amongst others.
Presenting the strategic direction of education in the third phase of the SEEPD Programme, the SEEPD Programme Manager, Mr. Awa Jacques Chirac said there has been a systematic shift from focus on improving the participation of learners in education through awareness creation and education on the rights of children with disabilities to go to school and advocacy for Inclusive education in the first phase to focus on inclusive education in state run schools characterized by capacity development, setting up of resource rooms and facilitative supervision through monitoring visits in the second phase. He said focus in the third phase is on establishing sustainable networks and partnerships for inclusive education at both regional and national levels with local and education authorities, heads of educational institutions, PTAs, School Councils and Municipal authorities. The programmer’s educational activities, he revealed, are also focusing on the introduction of inclusive education in some teacher training schools and strengthening the capacity of special schools to operate as resource centers for inclusive education.
In an interview after the workshop, the SEEPD Programme Manager disclosed that the programme has already signed MOUs with some 15 councils with one of the responsibilities of the councils being to support the education of children with disabilities in the council municipalities. According to Jacques Chirac Awa, the councils will do this by employing a teacher for the inclusive education resource room in inclusive education pilot schools in their municipalities and by providing material, didactic and assistive material and devices to children with disabilities in their municipalities.
Drilling participants on differentiating instructions, the SEEPD Education Advisor told participants that it is important to differentiate instructions and teaching methods considering the fact that different learners have different learning styles and preferences. She added that it is also important to have an individual education guide being a written plan containing specific, realizable and observable expectations for a child who has a severe impairment that can stand in the way of his/her learning .
According to the former Coordinator of the Bamenda Teachers Resource Center, Mr. Tangu Martin Nji, the SEEPD Inclusive Education lead persons and resource teachers can contribute to policy formulation at their local levels by being enthusiastic, receptive to innovations, sharing experiences, creating awareness among colleagues and neighboring schools, systematically collecting information and reporting to hierarchy, producing write ups about practice and disseminating to the right quarters and actively participating in seminars. Mr. Tangu advised participants that there is supposed to be a link between the Regional Inclusive Education Resource Centre (RIERC) situated at GBHS Bamenda and the Inclusive Education Resource rooms available in the rest of the pilot schools. He said teachers in schools having resource rooms should exploit the resources available in the Regional Inclusive Education Resource Centre by visiting and or borrowing the resources. He explained that The RIERC in particular provides a venue for teachers to meet and discuss inclusive education strategies, planning and exchanging ideas and provides ICT within the context of inclusive education to teachers and students of the school and other schools in the region.
It should be noted that the Regional Inclusive Education Resource Centre (RIERC) contains a library, resource room containing ICT and inclusive education equipment, conference room and offices while the resource rooms in the rest of the schools contain just some ICT and inclusive education equipment, books on pedagogy and other didactic and assistive devices for learners with disabilities.
For his part, the Coordinator of the Bamenda Teachers Resource Center, Mr. Tasi Lucas told participants that as inclusive education lead persons and resource teachers they are supposed to amongst other responsibilities identify learners with disabilities in their schools and report to the school’s administration, suggest strategies that can meet the learning needs of such learners to the school administration, teachers, their parents and write periodic reports to the SEEPD education authorities about the number of learners with disabilities in their schools, and the progress of inclusive education activities in their schools. Participants were also told to desist using insulting and stigmatizing language to address persons with disabilities and use to appropriate language that portray the persons and not their impairments.
At the end of the workshop, participants affirmed that they were fascinated by the workshop presentations especially differentiating lessons to suit the learning needs of learners. They revealed that their teaching methods were going to improve significantly as they were going to be very inclusive of their individual learners. They promised to share knowledge gained with their schools administration, colleagues and even other schools when schools resume.
The SEEPD Programme is currently implementing inclusive education in 7 secondary and 7 primary schools in the North West Region, one from each division. Through the SEEPD Programme inclusive education endeavors, GBHS Bamenda now has for the very first time 13 deaf students assisted by two sign language teachers and three students with total visual impairments effectively studying in the school.
The workshop was also attended by participants from JMBC Ndu, CEEFED, SENTI, ISFD and ISFB in Mbingo and Kumbo respectively.