By Enock Balakasi
The Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) says there is increasing disregard for learners requiring Special Needs Education (SNE) in Malawi and has called upon relevant stakeholders to take quick and collective action to reverse the trend.
CSEC Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe said this on Thursday night in Lilongwe when he presented to education and budget committees of Parliament findings of his paper titled Inclusive Education in Malawi.
The paper focused on SNE to get views of the parliamentarians on the best strategies to improve the sector.
According to the paper, the number of learners requiring SNE is increasing in Malawi’s primary and secondary education institutions.
On the other hand, only the University of Malawi (UNIMA) through Chancellor College admits students with disabilities, limiting access to tertiary education for such people.
“The increase in numbers, especially in primary and secondary institutions, implies the need for careful attention to such learners who need massive resources in order to effectively learn or access education at all levels,” observed Kondowe.
Kondowe’s observation comes in view of the many challenges affecting SNE leaners in the country.
His paper cites unavailability of special needs friendly infrastructure, inadequate teaching and learning materials, enrollment and lack of specialist teachers as some of the key challenges.
According to Kondowe, Malawi can deal with these problems if all stakeholders work together and consider SNE issues as a priority in their development plans.
“After all, the country has adopted robust local and international legal and policy frameworks that can help partners implement best practices for the betterment of SNE leaners,” he said.
Apparently, Kondowe made reference to, among others, the Disability Act (2012), Education Act (2013) and National Strategy on Inclusive Education (2016-2020) that prohibit discrimination of persons with disabilities in education and training.
On their part, Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Education Dr Elias Chakwela and his Budget and Finance counterpart Rhino Chiphiko said they are ashamed that even Malawi’s Parliament could consider SNE matters as not crucial.