-Ministry Of Education Launches Inclusive Education Policy
By R. Joyclyn Wea
The Ministry of Education on Thursday, March 5, 2020 launched the Inclusive Education (IE) Policy at Corina Hotel in Monrovia. The IE policy defines the strategic path of the Government of Liberia for the education of all children with special educational needs.
The policy development process involved the participation of key stakeholder groups from public institutions, civil society, private sector, community, and built on a compilation of resolutions adopted at a consultative inclusive education meeting with stakeholders, education partners and the Ministry of Education staff in February 2017.
The document contains seven key objectives as well as several strategies to be achieved by the Ministry and partners.
According to Mr. Edwin PayeKakia, Director for Policy Appraisal who, through a PowerPoint presentation, brilliantly presented the Inclusive Education Policy, said the policy is based on series of national and international commitments to the Education for All (EFA) agenda and nationally, it endorses the Government of Liberia commitment to the 1986 Constitution “General Principles of National Policy” Article 6, which states equal access to opportunities and facilities for all citizens and residents to the extent of available resources.
Presenting on the Disability and Inclusion Trust Fund for education sector, Mr. Emmanuel Boone Waydon, Director for Program Coordination and External Support Services informed participants that the Division of Special and Inclusive Education is currently implementing a US$250,000 World Bank Trust Fund to address disability-inclusive challenges in the Liberia Education Sector. According to Mr. Waydon, this support for inclusive education focuses on five main activities including disability and inclusion kickoff event, disability and inclusion assessment in six counties, system strengthening for the Special and Inclusive Education Division, disability inclusion community awareness and household outreach pilot in one (1) targeted county, and inclusive education teacher training module and teaching and learning materials.
“The US$250,000 Trust Fund is squarely executed by World Bank activity-by-activity with an end date of April 30, 2020,” he said.
Updating on progress against the Trust Fund activities, Mr. Waydon lamented that activity 1 (one) outcomes have been fully achieved following the IE policy launch on March 5, 2020; while the MoE and the World Bank are concluding the hiring process of the firm that will conduct the Disability and Inclusion Assessment in six (6) counties. IE teacher training module for Early Childhood Education teachers has been developed and currently being piloted at the Rural Teacher Training Institutes. On the other hand, planning activities are underway for the effective implementation of the remaining activities.
Speaking as the Chief Launcher, Hon. Alexander N. Duopu, Deputy Education Minister for Instruction who officially launched the policy on behalf of Hon. D. Ansu Sonii, Minister of Education noted that with the new policy, the Ministry and partners would re-look at the way classrooms are structured and lessons are designed.
“Child’s education is a right and not a privilege. If all children are educated, it will foster culture of responsibility and belongings,” MOE Deputy Minister for Instruction.
Minister Duopu further said “We want to ensure persons with disabilities are in the numbers of empowered citizens because this segment of our population has not had equal access. When we took over the management of the education sector of our dear country more than two years ago, we made a commitment to fully achieve the overall goal of the Ministry of Education – “Provide equal access to educational opportunities and facilities for all citizens and residents to the extent of available resources and that emphasis shall be placed on the mass education of the Liberia people”.
“So today, we are grateful to all stakeholders who made this day a reality, particularly Sightsavers, Handicap International, and the World Bank,” he added.
The Hon. Minister concluded by encouraging and pleading with all well-meaning Liberians and partners to continue to work together in ensuring full implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy.
Apart from the IE policy, another document that was unveiled by the MoE was the Inclusive Education Policy Implementation Plan.
According to the MoE, cost of implementation of the IE policy is US$3.1m over the period of three (3) years – 2019/2020, 2020/2021 and 2021/2022. This cost covers universal design of school, awareness and community outreach, capacity building, supervision, data collection, provision of assistive devices, etc.
Prior to the crafting of the document, there were limited data available on persons with disabilities. People living with disabilities were left out or excluded from school; they were amongst the poorest citizens.
On the issue of financing, the MoE indicated that the alignment of IE policy strategies with activities already planned and budgeted for in the Getting to Best (G2B) Education Sector Plan (ESP) operational plan will facilitate financing of some activities within the IE Policy Implementation Plan.
Making remarks at the Policy launch, Ms. Binta Massaquoi who represented the World Bank Office, acknowledged the dedication and quest of the Ministry of Education to meet the educational needs of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) and stressed that the World Bank will continue to closely work with the Inclusive Division of MoE to meet the overall objective of the IE Policy.
“Given the World Bank is committed to the education and well-being of all people, an amount of US$250,000.00 Trust Fund has been approved to support inclusive education programs in Liberia in which one of the key activities is to do disability and inclusion assessment in six (6) counties including Bomi, River Gee, Maryland, Grand Kru, River Cess, and Sinoe,” Ms. Massaquoi remarked.
Mr. Waydon cautioned citizens to engage their lawmakers to allot money in the national budget to support the education of PwDs. By this way, he believes partners will be encouraged to do more.
As for Mrs. Theresa Garwo, Director for Special and Inclusive Education, her Division is taking one activity at a time. The next activity is the disability inclusion assessment in six counties. She further said that following the assessment, the Division and partners will carry out vigorous awareness and outreach campaign to educate all stakeholders on the different disability issues and how everyone can work to improve the situations of PWDs in Liberia.
Subsequently, the Principal of the Duazon Public School of the Blind, Mr. Henry J. Lloyd appreciated the Ministry of Education for this worthy cause and hopes that the launch of the IE policy creates an enabling environment for people with disabilities.
He lauded the Division of Special and Inclusive Education for the plan to undertake massive awareness on disabilities issues across the country. He said “PWDs need to be encouraged not discouraged, so such initiative will help to bridge the gaps, he concluded.”
Mr. Alvin Jask from the Alvin Jask Initiatives thanked the MoE for making history through the launch of the IE policy. He donated three (3) canes to the Division of Special and Inclusive Education to be given to needed children. “I am willing to work along with you on any current or future projects to advance the development of PWDs,” Mr. Jask added.
At the same time, officials of USAID said they are looking forward to collaborating with MOE to understand what is it that USAID need to do to help it disabilities partners.
The voices of Christian Association of the Blind and Liberia School for the Blind entertained participants with beautiful inclusive songs.
One catchy song sung was “Send Us to School” where they called on H.E Dr. George M. Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia and H.E Jewel Howard-Taylor Vice President of the Republic of Liberia to send them to school. The launch took place at a local hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia.