By Ere-ebi Kesiena
A non-governmental organisation dedicated to controlling and eliminating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), Sightsavers Nigeria has joined in marking the 2023 International Day of Education with a call on government at all levels, corporate organisations, religious and community leaders to take action in ensuring that inclusive education, especially among physically challenged children becomes a reality.
Nigeria with an estimated 20 million out-of-school children has one of the highest rates in the continent. This number includes, the most marginalised learners, especially children with disabilities.
In a press statement made available to journalists in Abuja on Tuesday to mark the day, the Programme Manager for Social Inclusion of Sightsavers Nigeria, Esther Angulu urged for equal opportunity in learning and economic inclusion between physically challenged children and their able-bodied peers.
“We call on governments and communities around the world to take action to so that children with disabilities can have the same opportunities to learn as their non-disabled peers”, she said.
According to the group, with the right investment and education policies, all children can have access to quality education, regardless of their abilities.
“With the right support and accommodation, there’s no reason why children with disabilities can’t be educated in the same classrooms and schools as non-disabled children.
“Inclusive education not only improves educational outcomes for children with disabilities, but also promotes social inclusion and helps to break down barriers of discrimination”, she added.
Sightsavers Nigeria has continued in its advocacy in the country in the last decades, partnering with government and other stakeholders on SMILE, an inclusive education project for children with disabilities in Kaduna state.
The group says SMILE project is creating a locally driven and sustainable model of disability-inclusive education in eight schools in Jema’a local government of Kaduna State.
A visually impaired child who gave his name as Godson expressed happiness with the support he now receives from his peers and teachers in his local school.
“This is the first time I am being celebrated as a child with disability, my teacher and my classmates are now very supportive, caring and friendly towards me”, he said while hoping to be a teacher in the future.
The Country Director, Sightsavers Nigeria, Dr. Sunday Isiyaku expressed satisfaction with the result being achieved by the advocacy campaign of his organisation, noting that education is a powerful tool for sustainable development.
“In Kaduna we have seen first-hand the positive impact that education can have on the lives of children with disabilities and their families. Inclusive education is not only a basic human right, but also a powerful tool for achieving sustainable development.
“We praise the government for their work on disability inclusion so far and call for them and others to continue on this path. Together, we can ensure that no child is left behind in their quest for education and a better future” he stated.