By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Following the Coronavirus, COVID-19, lockdown and school closure nationwide by the Federal and State Governments, a group called Concerned Group of Special Need Parents in Nigeria, CGSNPN, under the auspices of the Engraved One’s Prayer Support and Advocacy Initiative, EOPSAI, Tuesday, wrote an Open Letter to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, over the inclusion of children with special needs in Federal Government’s e-learning portal.
The letter with the subject ‘The Need For The Inclusion Of Special Needs Classes In The Nation’s Homeschooling Option During The Period Of Covid19 Lockdown’ was signed by Concerned Group of Special Need Parents in Nigeria, CGSNPN, and made available to Vanguard, called on the government to give special attention to children with special needs in order for them to grow and develop as other citizens of Nigeria.
According to them, the letter was necessitated by the realities posed by the challenge children with special needs are grappling with and the negative impact of the lockdown on the quality of life of these children.
The letter reads in part, “We are members of a Support Group for Special Needs Children called ‘The Engraved One’s Prayer Support and Advocacy Initiative’. In other words, we are parents, caregivers, and lovers of children living with Special Needs.
“Secondly, we wish to commiserate with Your Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and indeed every Nigerian and the world at large on this horrible pandemic ravaging the Earth. Our prayers are for the rapid restoration of normalcy on our streets and all systems of existence.
“This letter was necessitated by the realities posed by the above-named challenge. By this we mean, the impact of lockdown situation on the quality of life of our children. Special needs imply that our children and wards require a little more love, care, and support. Prior to the pandemic, the challenges of Special Needs or Inclusive Education had been enormous!
“Families had over the years, grappled with the challenges of access, quality, and relevance of the existing curriculum of mainstream schools to their children. In addition to these worries, at the moment, we are concerned about the effects of the closure of schools that may have on our children because they thrive on daily specialized educational support strategies that parents can hardly offer as substitute home tutors. Our children are mainly visual and tactile learners who require assistive aids to enhance learning.
“You may wish to recall that at the moment Your Excellency, that Special Needs Education is majorly private sector driven with very poor supervision as regards the manner of operations, cost, and several other issues. You may also wish to recall that the National Policy on Special Needs Education is very far from being implemented and the same goes for the mandatory inclusion programs in Nigerian Schools which is a conversation for another day.
“While appreciating the Ministry of Education for the laudable introduction of the FG free e-learning portals for primary and secondary schools, we therefore have and raise the following concerns;
- That our children may regress in their academics and other forms of therapy during this period of lockdown.
- That most Special Needs parents may not be able to afford the fees charged by Private Special Needs Educators who are the ones offering homeschooling options for Special Needs purposes at the moment.
iii. That the present reality of the lockdown situation has brought to the fore that parents need to be trained and equipped to meet the educational needs of their Special Needs children while at home such as we have now.
- That even where these skills are available, payment for the data required to download standard materials, the fuel or generator required to sustain online learning remains a concern! Even the Computers and Educational Tabs and many other crucial sensory materials especially required to make this possible remains a fantasy.
- That provision of the much needed assistive aids that are so vital for the success of Special Education Needs Programming is now very cogent and requires the concentrated attention of the Federal Government.”
However, the group also in the letter made some recommendations on way forward to ensure children with special needs have inclusion forthwith in the on e-learning portal in order for them to benefit and have a sense of belonging including their parents and guardians.
“We are worried! However, beyond these worries, we do have a few recommendations. Please permit us to outline them as follows:
- The considerate inclusion of ‘Special Classes’ tailored to meet the needs of this class of pupils and students in the Federal Government e-learning portals.
- That the Government-Sponsored Training Programs to be organized for parents and caregivers immediately normalcy and freedom of movement are restored to equip parents with the right skills to cater to the educational needs of their children. This is to forestall a situation where exceptionally gifted children are left out in the future.
- That the Federal Government consider more robust and all-inclusive palliative plans and measures for parents, caregivers, and institutions in the Special Need category of education and living.
Thank you very much Your Excellency for your time sir. We eagerly look forward to receiving positive feedback from you. Hereafter, we also seek for a more engaging discussion with the Honorable Minister as we wish you well in your tenure and service of our dear fatherland!”