Inclusive schools more than a ramp
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Since the 2018 Ramp It Up, Fix It Up Labour Day project, all schools are now deemed inclusive. Inclusivity is more than just having a ramp for accessibility and is quite ineffective when the majority of these schools do not even have one student in a wheelchair, or if there are students, the one ramp does not allow the student or students full access to the school. Where is the true equity in the education system? Our schools need to be built and equipped with vision to allow for total inclusivity.
An inclusive school must give students with special needs the opportunity to receive quality education in their schools of choice with their siblings, family, and friends. In this inclusive environment, there should be varied access points to learning.
School leaders have a major part to play in ensuring inclusivity in their schools, not only in the physical environment, but also in the values and expectations they set for their staff. In an environment where there is collective responsibility for learning and learners, there is usually more success and room for inclusivity to thrive.
Unfortunately, our schools, especially the rural ones, suffer from a centralised education system where the shot-callers in education who know little about the realities the teachers face on a daily basis make decisions and send them down the ladder, which stifles access to inclusivity in teaching and learning. These decisions are more focused on teacher compliance rather than equity in the teaching-learning environment.
The gap remains. Our schools are not equipped to ensure equity and thus cannot be deemed inclusive. We have to first cater to the physical, developmental, behavioural, or emotional and sensory needs of our learners by providing the right infrastructure and resources. As we prepare for the new school year, 2019-2020, what plans does the Ministry of Education have in place to advance Sustainable Development Goal Four (SDG4) to ensure a more equitable education system in Jamaica?