THE SOCIAL INCLUSION OF LEARNERS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT IN A MAINSTREAM SECONDARY SCHOOL IN NAMIBIA

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CHAPTER ONE

CONTEXT AND RATIONALE FOR THE STUDY

   INTRODUCING THE ENQUIRY

“The fly caught in the spider web is included, but victimized” (McCollum, 1998:184).

Hatlen (2004) states that learners in inclusive education settings who are blind or visually impaired, are socially isolated. He refers to these learners as elephants in our professional rooms for the reason that learners with visual impairment experience great difficulty with social interaction skills, which exclude them from the rest of the mainstream setting. Hatlen (2004) suggested that social interaction skills are as important as learning to read. It often may be the case that learners with disabling conditions, particularly those who are more visible and significant, though included in the classroom, may remain outsiders (Anderson, 2006). It is important not to overlook the importance of social interactions as a basis for learning. Interactions with others in the learner‟s environment provide a basis from which the learner learns to view the world (Grubbs & Niemeyer, 1999).

   BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

In 1994, Namibia signed the Salamanca Statement on Principles and Practice in Special Needs Education. This statement argues that regular schools with an inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all (Unesco, 1994).

A mere definition will not be sufficient in conveying the actual meaning of the concept of inclusive education. However, inclusive education can be defined as a system of education that is responsive to the diverse needs of all learners (Naicker, 2001). Perhaps most important, inclusive education involves the whole person. The interaction of the physical, cognitive, social,

emotional, and moral dimensions of development must occur throughout education (Donald, Lazarus & Lolwana, 2002).

Namibia developed the National Policy on Disability that indicates that the State will certify that learners with disabilities have equal opportunities and equal access to education, sports and recreation, and all other services in the community, such as health care. Boys and girls will have equal rights  (Ministry of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, 1997). The National Policy on Disability reiterated the Salamanca Principles on inclusion and the policy urged the then Ministry of Basic Education, Sport and Culture to make provision for inclusive education for all Namibian learners, including those with disabilities, and to develop the capacity of mainstream schools to meet the various needs of all children. Ndjoze-Ojo – Deputy Minister of Education in Namibia, said the following: “A national policy on Inclusive Education has been drafted and regional consultation is under way before the finalisation  and adoption of the policy” (New Era, 2009:3). Having a policy in place will ensure that the learners with barriers to learning are effectively supported in the mainstream schools.

In order to start off the inclusion of learners with disabilities in Namibia, the Directorate of Programmes and Quality Assurance (PQA) has initiated a pilot phase in a local school in Windhoek, Namibia (New Era, 2009). In 2006, eight learners with visual impairment were transferred from the NISE-Blind (the special school for learners with visual impairment in Windhoek) to a mainstream secondary school. In Namibia the most frequently reported sensory problems are those of visual and hearing impairment (Zimba, Mostert, Hengari, Haihambo, Mowes, Nuugwedha & February, 2007).