Students with disabilities return to in-class teaching

A teacher and her student return to in-class teaching at Al-Masar Center, on March 29, 2021. (Photo: Amjad Taweel/JNews)
AMMAN –– Children with disabilities returned to schools on Monday, following a Cabinet decision that responded to calls by activists and parents as virtual learning cannot meet the requirements of education for this segment of students.اضافة اعلان

The government left the decision to send children with disabilities back to school optional for their families. No figures were available on the number or percentage of those who attended actual classes on the first day after the announcement, but Spokesperson for the Ministry of Education Abd Al-Ghafour Quraan expected that all of the 1,064 students with disabilities were expected to start taking classes anew, served by 50 percent of the teaching staff.

Nemat Qandil, principal of Al-Farouq Charitable School, said that 60 of the school’s 150 students, of various disabilities, showed up on Monday.

Breaking down the figure, Quraan said there are 10 schools for children with hearing impairment accommodating 640 students, one school for students with visual impairment where 304 students are enrolled, and one for mental disabilities with 120 students.

Qandil said the government’s decision was “long-awaited” as online teaching does not fit people with disabilities, maintaining that face-to-face communication is vital for their learning.

This view was shared by the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (HCD). Suha Tabbal, a member of the HCD, said the online teaching platforms provided by the Ministry of Education are not advanced enough to cater for the needs of students with disabilities.

She emphasized the importance of in-class teaching for this group, citing the visually impaired students’ need, for example, to learn Braille, which requires actual interaction between teachers and students. “This process cannot be done virtually.”

Qandil added that “students with hearing impairment also need to read their teachers’ facial expressions to learn sign language, and a decent internet connection cannot be available to each and every student.”

Zakiyah Odat, the mother of an 8-year-old blind student was excited for her son’s return to school.

“Finally! His school can teach him Braille much better than I can. The school also teaches blind students the basics of using a cane, which I also cannot do,” she said.

Educators and parents stressed they were not concerned about the health hazards of student gatherings in classrooms.

Odat said she is confident that the schools and their students will commit to the public health procedures. She demanded that “disabled students and teachers have a vaccination priority, because there’s a lot of physical contact involved.”

Dima Maraqa, vice principal and occupational therapist at Al-Masar Center for Special Education, said that the spaces provided for students at the center are safe, open and sanitized. The protocol, she explained, includes regular hand-washing and social distancing. Therapists and teachers are also always wearing double masks or face shields.