Beyond Nomenclature: Special Education or Inclusive Education

Beyond Nomenclature: Special
Education or Inclusive Education:
Advocating Quality Basic Education
Onuora-Oguno Azubike
LLD Candidate University of Pretoria
Presented at the 7th Worldwide
Conference of GAJE, Dec 10-18, 2013
 Education is the great engine of personal
development. It is through education
that the daughter of a peasant can
become a doctor, that a son of a
mineworker can become the head of the
mine that a child of farm workers can
become the president of a nation.
 Education could be described as a process that prepares an
individual to be able to interact with his society positively so as to
achieve both individual and communal goals.
 The right to education (art. 13) GC of CESCR
Education is both a human right in itself and an indispensable
means of realizing other human rights. As an empowerment right,
education is the primary vehicle by which economically and socially
marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty
and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities.
Education has a vital role in empowering women, safeguarding
children from exploitative and hazardous labour and sexual
exploitation, promoting human rights and democracy, protecting
the environment, and controlling population growth. Increasingly,
education is recognized as one of the best financial investments
States can make. But the importance of education is not just
practical: a well-educated, enlightened and active mind, able to
wander freely and widely, is one of the joys and rewards of human
 The task of realising the right to education has not
being without some challenges and criticism. This has
been based either on institutional criticism or
instructional criticism. With particular reference to
people with disability and their attendant right to
education in Nigeria, the challenges are more
 Currently the raging debate is on whether education
should be inclusive or special. While the Convention
of the Rights of People with Disability, specifically
calls for inclusive education (article 24), the African
Charter on Rights and Welfare of a Child (article 17)
calls on State parties to ensure that ‘special measures
are taken to promote self-reliance and participation
in the community’.
Realization of the right to Basic
Education: Immediate or Progressive?
 The realisation of economic social and cultural rights
remains a daunting task especially for developing
countries. The progressive approach is often adopted as
several needs compete for developing states limited
 However, the realisation of basic education is one social
right that is accepted not to fall within the threshold of
progressive realisation. The reason behind this is the fact
that education is seen as an intrinsic right and should be
realised if the aims of education are to be achieved.
The Pending Challenge
 Aside the poor state of education the world over, the
child in sub-Saharan Africa is statistically most vulnerable
in the quest to attain basic education. The poor statistics
on access to basic education is occasioned by numerous
factors. Most children in Africa face either the dangers of
forceful conscription into armed hostilities; child
trafficking and slavery; child prostitution and denial of
basic needs occasioned by poverty; thus affecting either
their access or completion rate in schools.
 A Child With Disability (CWD) is further relegated to the
background occasioned by the conditions of learning
disabilities. Children who are differently abled or as
popularly referred to as disabled children find themselves
at the lower rung of the discrimination and denial already
suffered by children
Special and Inclusive Education in
 ‘Special education is assumed to be grounded on the
achievements of people like Jeane-March Gaspard Itard
and Anne Sullivan Macy’, the achievements of teaching
children with some form of disability in isolation from
other children ensure that the tag special education was
adapted in educating of CWD.
 The need for special education was conceived as a CWD
was perceived to have need for greater attention to
ensure the child is able to benefit from school activities. In
this respect, ‘special education policies are articulated in
terms of concern for the individual and the challenge of
ensuring that individual needs are identified and met’
 Special education is further motivated from the social
and medical perspectives. While the former focuses
on the environmental challenges the latter is occupied
with ‘individual who needs fixing-either by therapy,
medicine, surgery or special treatment’.
 Inclusive education basically interpreted
encapsulates the ‘movement seeking to create
schools that meet the needs of all students by
establishing learning communities for students with
and without disabilities’ The quest to move from
special education to inclusive education was
highlighted by UNESCO in 1994 in Salamanca when it
stated that:
 Special needs education is an issue of equal concern
to countries…it has to form part of an overall
education strategy and indeed of new social and
economic policies. It calls for major reform of the
ordinary school.
 In article 2 it reinforces the importance of embracing inclusive education
when it provides that:
 We believe and proclaim that:
 Every child has a fundamental right to education, and must be given the
opportunity to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of learning,
 Every child has unique characteristics, interests, abilities and learning
 Education systems should be designed and educational programmes
implemented to take into account the wide diversity of these
characteristics and needs,
 Those with special educational needs must have access to regular
schools which should accommodate them within a child centred
pedagogy capable of meeting these needs,
 Regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective
means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming
communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for
all; moreover, they provide an effective education to the majority of
children and improve efficiency and ultimately the cost-effectiveness of
the entire education system.
 inclusion as adapted in this paper and advanced is as conceptualized by Vislie:
 Inclusion is not:
 — focusing on an individual or small group of pupils for whom the curriculum is
adapted, different work is devised or support assistants are provided;
 — about how to assimilate individual pupils with identified special educational
needs into existing forms of schooling.
 Inclusion is:
 — a process (rather than a state), by which a school attempts to respond to all
pupils as individuals;
 — regards inclusion and exclusion as connected processes; schools developing
more inclusive practices may need to consider both;
 — emphasizes the reconstructing of curricular provision in order to reach out to
all pupils as individuals;
 — emphasizes overall school effectiveness;
 — is of relevance to all phases and types of schools, possibly including special
schools, since within any educational provision teachers face groups of students
with diverse needs and are required to respond to this diversity.
 L Vislie ‘from integration to inclusion: focusing global trends and changes in the
western European societies’ (2003) European Journal of Special Needs Education
Vol 18 No 1, 21.
Legal and Policy regime of Inclusive
Education Applicable to Nigeria
 The Nigerian Constitution of 1999 provides for education
in section 18. Education is advanced as mere fundamental
objective of state principles and in some quarters is
perceived as not demanding a positive responsibility from
the state in ensuring the realisation of education. The
Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 remains the major
document that regulates the basis for the quest for the
realisation of access to basic education in Nigeria.
Presently the National Policy of Education of 2013 is the
policy document that stipulates in further details the
aspiration of the nation’s philosophy of education.
Global and Regional Human Rights
UDHR article 26.
CESCR article 13 & 14.
ACHPR article 17.
CRC article 28.
Notwithstanding the various provisions of the above
mentioned treaties, the need to protect the specific
interest of persons suffering from disability became a
front burner in the discus of international human
rights law. The Convention on the Rights of People
with Disability (CRPD) was also adopted
 Article 24 of the CRPD reads:
2. In realizing this right, States Parties shall ensure that:
 Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general
education system on the basis of disability, and that children with
disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary
education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability;
 Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free
primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with
others in the communities in which they live;
 Reasonable accommodation of the individual’s requirements is
 Persons with disabilities receive the support required, within the
general education system, to facilitate their effective education;
 Effective individualized support measures are provided in
environments that maximize academic and social development,
consistent with the goal of full inclusion.
 Article 2 CRPD
Inclusive or Special: Moving Beyond
Nomenclature Embracing Quality
 An important factor to consider in the question of the realisation of
education of CWD is to ensure that access, availability and adaptability
are enhanced. In the first instance, whether in special or inclusive school
system, access must be ensured. This deals with the provision of support
for children either physically challenged or otherwise. The availability
concept must ensure that opportunity and sufficiency of school must
take care of the need of CWD.
 The question of ability of teachers who are not trained and lack skills to
assist CWD looms large and raises issues of economic urgency for states.
According to Ajuwon ‘Often, it is gratifying that where school and
community environments can be made physically and programmatically
accessible, children and youth with physical disabilities can function more
effectively than would otherwise be the case. It is also apparent that
such modifications to the environment often enable others who do not
have disabilities to access their environment even more readily’.
 The huge criticism of special education is grounded on the ‘us and them’
nomenclature that is argued to create room for definite discrimination
and unequal treatment. Special is seen as connoting the treatment of
CWD because of the peculiar circumstance which is seen as ultimately
discriminatory and derogatory. It must however, be appreciated that
the historical emergence of the concept of special education was to
ensure that every individual has access to education.
 Inclusive education is a highly visible yet contentious notion in
contemporary education reform because of conceptual, historical, and
pragmatic reasons. From a conceptual perspective, the definition of
inclusion is still debated, ranging from physical placement in general
education classrooms to the transformation of entire educational
 Emphasis provided, this is to provide the understanding that rather than
dwell on nomenclature, the need for a transformation towards quality is
 Capturing a wider scope of inclusive education, it
must be reiterated that inclusions goes beyond
education of just persons with disabilities but also
ensuring the elimination of all forms of clogs that
may deter any individual from realizing access to
basic education in terms of minorities, languages and
even cultures.
 In view of a broader interpretation of the notion of
inclusive, it is opined here that special education itself
can provide a basis of quality if a progressive model
of ensuring that the school system is empowered to
eliminate all forms of inequalities is pursued
 The underlying factor in inclusive education must
commence on the basis that ‘classroom teachers
have basic knowledge and understanding about the
needs of different learners; teaching techniques and
curriculum strategies’. Aside the role of the teachers
and pupils, there is need to also inculcate an
inclusive mentality in the society so as to encourage
and build a healthy learning environment described
as ‘a society open and accessible to all’.
 it has also been argued that the concept of inclusion does not
necessary mean inclusive, advancing this notion it is opined that
there is the need to reconceptualise the definition of the
inclusive notion. This argument suites the authors position that
the process of inclusion must be followed with caution as it is
not one that can be embraced in a hurry. It is therefore one that
must be followed with a gradual guarantee of quality in the
educational structure that is presently in place.
 An identified merit of special education system is seen from the
fact that the chances of CWD suffering discriminatory language
in the school space are limited as opposed to the chances in the
inclusive education setup.
 The present treatment of education responsibility as a
mere obligation is therefore not encouraged. Almost, all
African countries provides for the right to education within
their various Constitutions but treating them as mere
aspiration that should be met. However, South Africa
remains an exception with its non qualification of the right
to education.
 Law Clinics must engage issues of quality basic education
in the communities as this is the only means via which
their advocacy would get maximum results.