Less than 2% of Jordanian children with disabilities receive education – HCD

Officials, experts discuss problem, potential interventions

(File photo: Jordan News)

AMMAN — The greatest challenge faced by Jordanians with disabilities is education, as less than 2 percent of children with disabilities are enrolled in schools, according to the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (HCD).اضافة اعلان

With this staggering figure, the council’s 2020 ten-year strategy for inclusive education states that “the vast majority of persons with disabilities of school age are completely outside the scope of educational institutions”. 

In partnership with the Ministry of Education, the HCD aims to raise the percentage of school-aged children with disabilities enrolled in mainstream schools to 10 percent by 2013, providing them with “all the requirements of inclusive education”, according to the strategy.

The director of the HCD’s follow-up directorate for its inclusive education plan, Essar Mazahreh, explained to Jordan News that there are no figures showing whether the percentage of children with disabilities in schools has increased or declined. Regardless, she said, the directorate is working to implement the ten-year strategy to enhance education access in the Kingdom.

“We believe that helping persons with disabilities secure their rights is a societal responsibility, and will greatly benefit both people with disabilities and the economy,” she said.

Why is the rate of school enrollment so low?There are several reasons for the low level of school attendance among students with disabilities, Mazahreh said, pointing to a lack of societal awareness concerning the rights of persons with disabilities and the importance of inclusive education.

Poor infrastructure, limited financial resources, and a lack of qualified staff also contribute to the problem, she noted.

The HCD is endeavoring to change stereotypes and consolidate the concept that the rights of persons with disabilities are basic human rights, encouraging the acceptance of diversity within community environments, she said.

One important means of doing so is through encouraging parents to enroll their children with disabilities in schools, Mazahreh explained.

What are the authorities doing to solve the problem?The council is working hard to solve the challenges faced by persons with disabilities, especially in regards to their access to education, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and international organizations.

It is accomplishing this through providing funding for schools, developing infrastructure, equipping schools to accommodate students with disabilities, training qualified educational staff, and creating friendly and inclusive educational environments.

The HCD is also working to implement early intervention programs from the kindergarten stage, thus facilitating the integration process from childhood, as well as preparing standards for educational diagnosis with the cooperations of experts in the field of special education.

Furthermore, 57 support teachers have been appointed to 31 schools and are undergoing training to assist with the academic integration of students with disabilities.

The council also participates with civil society organizations and institutions in conducting awareness training programs to raise community support for inclusive education and empower local organizations with tools and strategies to gain support and advocacy.

On a government level, the HCD and the Education Ministry have amended and added legislation to support young people with disabilities.

Experts weigh in on inclusive educationOne Jordanian activist for people with disabilities, Iman Al-Abbadi, told Jordan News that centers and clubs should be opened to help people with disabilities leverage their roles in society, and schools should be equipped to enhance integration and ensure the enrolment of the largest possible number of students with disabilities.

She called for focusing on literacy programs so that students with disabilities can actively participate in society without feeling excluded.

Meanwhile, Hussein Al-Khuzai, a professor of sociology at the University of Jordan, called the 2 percent enrollment rate of “very low”, attributing it to a lack of necessary tools and a lack of sufficient specialists at government schools and some private schools.

“This makes it difficult for people with disabilities to integrate into society, and impossible for society to benefit from their capabilities,” he said.

Looking outside Jordan for inspiration“If we want to raise the percentage of learners with special needs, there are many solutions adopted by many countries, including countries in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Scandinavia, which create sustainable solutions inside the classroom,” said Suha Tabbal, a specialist in the field of Early Childhood Special Education.

“We have to take advantage of their experiences.”

The concerned authorities, she said, “should not wait to obtain financial allocations in order to integrate” students with disabilities into schools.

“There are alternative options,” she said, noting that some countries provide training diplomas for teachers after their university studies that will equip them to create suitable educational environments for students with disabilities.

“We could also rely on peer tutoring by talented children who can volunteer” to help teach those who have fallen behind in their studies, Tabbal added.

Inclusivity as a top priority
HH Prince Mired, president of the HCD, met with the head and members of the Senate's citizens' freedoms and rights committee on January 16 to discuss the right of persons with disabilities to access services and programs provided by public institutions.

While Jordan has made “remarkable progress” in the field of legislation with the issuance of an anti-discrimination law, constitutional amendments, and  amendments to the civil service system, Prince Mired confirmed that the greatest challenge faced by this segment of society is education.

Noting that education allocations for persons with disabilities are still “below ambition”, he called for making inclusivity the top priority of educational strategies.

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