EFFECTS OF NATIONAL POLICY ON SPECIAL EDUCATION PRACTICES AND IMPLEMENTATION A CASE STUDY OF PORT HARCOURT L.G.A, RIVERS STATE

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Educating special needs children in schools or classrooms means inclusion, mainstreaming, integration or normalization. Special education environment attempts to educate special needs children and adults in the same schools or classroom setting alongside the socalled normal children. The call for special education or mainstreaming came as a result of the excluding nature of the life of people with special needs. All people have a right to education. Special education is an approach that ensures the presence, participation and achievement of all students in education. This may be in formal schools, or in non-formal places of learning, such as extra-curricular clubs and humanitarian camps. It oen involves working to change the structures, systems, policies, practices and cultures in schools and other institutions responsible for education, so that they can respond to the diversity of students in their locality. Inclusion emphasizes opportunities for equal participation, but with options for special assistance and facilities as needed, and for differentiation, within a common learning framework (Sightsavers, 2011). The concept of special education includes all learners, but it may be interpreted differently according to the context. For example, while it covers children excluded on the basis of language, gender, ethnicity, disability and other factors, it can focus on children with disabilities only. At the same time, children may be affected by more than one issue. A child with disabilities may also speak the language of a minority ethnic group, or be a refugee, or, if she is a girl, her family and society may not value girls‘education.

According to LCD (2012), making schools special for boys and girls with disabilities improves them for all learners, including students facing exclusion because of other challenges, or more than one issue. According to UNESCO (2012), Inclusion is: Recognition of the right to education and its provision in non-discriminatory ways. A common vision which covers all people. A belief that schools and other places of learning have a responsibility to educate all children (and adults) in line with human rights principles.

A continuous process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners – regardless of factors such as disability, gender, age, ethnicity, language, HIV status, geographical location and sexuality – recognising that all people can learn. Special education is, by definition, the full integration of learners with and without special needs into the same classrooms and schools and thereby exposing them to the same learning opportunities. Ahmad (2000) defined special education as the education of all children and young people with and without disabilities or diiculties in learning together in ordinary pre-primary schools, colleges, and universities with appropriate network support. Okwudire and Okechukwu (2008) saw special education as the progressive increase in the participation of students, in reduction of their exclusion from the cultures, curricula, and communities of local schools. Okwudire and Okechukwu (2008) further explained that with special education, all students in a school regardless of their strength or weakness in any area become part of the school community. It is a place where children are seen as equal members of the classroom without being marginalized. Nigeria, in 1993, made a decree for the provision of special education with clear and comprehensive legal protection and security backing, yet due to governmental policies and cultural constrains, such decree did not succeed. This is a big problem for most special education and non-special education school administrators in Nigerian. The notion of special education was initially thought to be a concept in Nigerian educational system.

However, special education has since then witnessed some tremendous improvements in the last decade despite cultural, social-economic, and political constraints (Eskay, 2009; Oluigbo, 2009). Special education was one of the major issues examined at the 12th Annual National Conference of the National Council for Exceptional Children held at Minna, Niger State, in August, 2002. In the keynote address presented at the conference, Tim Obani (one of the pioneers in special education in the country), argued, “The old special education system with its restrictive practices cannot successfully address these problems [of special needs children] (Garuba, 2013).These improvements began from the provision of Section 8 of the National Policy on Education since 1970’s and have provided support mechanisms for children with disabilities. Because of governmental policies and cultural constraints, special education did not witness series of advocacies, litigations, and legislations, as it was observed in large scale societies like the United States of America, which resulted in the establishment of legal mechanism to meet the needs of children with disabilities in a special setting. An indication is the promulgation of PL (public law) 99-457 which, to a large extent, addresses special education concerns of young children.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Over the years, the gap between educational policies and goal attainment due to inadequate implementation of these policies has become of great concern to many observers. The paper is interested in identifying the implementation constraints and to explore the implications of poor educational policy implementation for national development, clarifying the causes, effects of poor policy on special education practices and implementation in Nigeria. One of the goals of education in Nigeria is to provide equal opportunities for all including those with special needs. A policy on special education demands that children with special needs be incorporated in regular schools. However, despite the progress in providing quality special education to children with special needs, challenges such as inadequate resources, negative attitude and believes towards children with disabilities as well as rigid school curriculum hinder effective implementation of special education. Effective implementation of special education in Port Harcourt L.G.A is a matter of concern. There is need to determine the effects of national policy on the status of implementation of Special Education in terms of staing, availability of teaching/learning materials and equipment and the general attitude towards special education.

EFFECTS OF NATIONAL POLICY ON SPECIAL EDUCATION PRACTICES AND IMPLEMENTATION A CASE STUDY OF PORT HARCOURT L.G.A, RIVERS STATE