As part of efforts at ensuring that no child is left behind in accessing basic education in Lagos, the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), on Friday, organised a stakeholders’ meeting on ways to meet the demands of children with special needs during and post COVID-19.
In his address at the meeting held at LASUBEB office, Maryland, Ikeja, on Friday, the Executive Chairman of the Board, Mr. Wahab Alawiye-king disclosed that the meeting became important to keep critical stakeholders abreast of policy formulation, especially in adopting new strategies to ensure that special needs pupils are served.
Alawiye-King emphasised the need for special schools to adopt e-learning platforms in conformity with the practice introduced by the Board since the emergence of COVID-19.
The Chairman noted that the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic made it imperative to rethink old ways and design new methods at ensuring that children, especially those with special needs, continue to learn despite school closure.
He emphasised the strong desire of the present to ensure that every child has access to inclusive and compulsory education as clearly spelt out in the education policy of the State Government.
“This policy ensures that special needs pupils are adequately catered for. It is the firm belief of the present administration that every child has the right to education, irrespective of their multi-dimensional challenges. Lagos State does not only fulfill this right but runs a blanket system, through its inclusive education policies, which ensure that no child is left behind”, he said.
According to the Board Chairman, the reason for the stakeholders’ meeting was to review the document setting up the special needs units in primary schools in order to come up with recommendations that would adequately cater for these pupils, through the use of modern technology to aid their learning.
Alawiye-King commended the special needs teachers for their dedication during the school closure, hailing them as ‘Education Frontline Workers’ and imploring parents as well as guardians to show love, care and dedication to special needs pupils, while the government plays its own part in ensuring that these children get the best education.
Also speaking, a Board member of LASUBEB in charge of Social Mobilisation and Structured Distance Learning, Mrs. Sijuade Tiamiyu, noted that one of the purposes of the strategic meeting was to bring together special needs teachers and heads of inclusive units to brainstorm on best ways to engage the pupils, stressing that their contributions are important as frontline teachers who have vast experience about the situation.
She, however, averred that the Board would look into ways to ensure that the teachers are strategically included in the production of educational content to be uploaded on the e-learning platforms, stating that these special needs students are also entitled to qualitative learning.
“There is no separate society for special needs, every child belongs to this society, therefore, they are entitled to the same quality education that normal students enjoy”, she added.
In her remarks, the Acting Board Secretary of LASUBEB, Mrs. Olubunmi Oteju said that the recommendations at the stakeholders’ meeting would be adequately examined, hinting that plans are ongoing to design a programme for all primary schools in Lagos State to cater for special needs children.
She listed the various interventions for special needs pupils during the school closure to include collaboration with NGOs to provide palliative support for 300 parents of special needs pupils, training of instructors on the use of the right language and sensitisation of parents on the use of structured distance learning, amongst others.
Mrs. Oteju pointed out that Lagos State is the first in Nigeria to start the inclusive units in schools, saying that “It currently has 2,975 students with special needs in 31 units spread across primary schools in three Local Government Areas and has five exclusive schools for children with intellectual disability, hearing impairment, autism, downs syndrome and the physically challenged.