Effects of Free Primary Education on Learners with Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Primary Schools

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A SUMMARY OF WHAT I INTEND TO DO.
The research will investigate the effects of free primary education on learners with diverse needs in the main stream primary schools. (A case of Lilongwe Urban Schools)

Identification of a sample of teachers, parents, pupils, schools. Distribution of questionnaires, conduct interviews, and observations. The Data will be conducted from four mainstream primary schools in Lilongwe district. 3.0.RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

3.1.A statement of search method
. Many learners with special educational needs experience a number of challenges in the mainstream primary schools in which in some way or the other prevent them from receiving quality education. (Ministry of Education PIF Document on special needs, 2000) At a conference held at Salamanca in Spain 1994, it was declared that learners with special educational needs acquire education in their home schools. (World Declaration on Education For All, 1990). This meant that they were to be included in the mainstream schools and the schools were supposed to accommodate these learners by providing them with specialized resources so that the children acquire quality education. The introduction of free primary education in Malawi in 1994 posed a threat towards the education of learners with special educational needs in their home schools, because much as it increased access to educational opportunities for all Malawians, it brought many challenges towards the education of learners with special educational needs in mainstream schools and to the ordinary learners as well. (Ministry of Education PIF document 2000).

One of the challenges emanating from the implementation of free primary education policy towards the education of learners with special educational needs is overcrowding in schools which lead to poor performance due to poor methods of teaching.

Statistics indicates that in 1993, there were about 1.6 million primary school students in Malawi. However, when free primary education was introduced in 1994, the number of students jumped to over three million (World Bank report 2004). This created a lot of problems, overcrowding in classes made teachers not to consider the needs of learners with special educational needs because there was too much work load. Teachers use poor methods of teaching as a result of overcrowding in classes and lack of resources. Teachers are failing to practice the individualized education plan meant for learners with special educational needs due to increased enrollment rates. (Ministry of Education PIF Document).This results in poor performance, high repetition rates for both learners with special educational needs and the ordinary pupils. It is thus of great importance to asses on how poor methods of teaching is a challenge to the education of learners with special educational needs. Some indications suggest that overcrowding in classrooms is pushing out pupils with special educational needs; an issue which the World Bank (2004) recommends that needs further research. Furthermore, due to overcrowding, survival rates for all learners (ordinary and those with special educational needs) have also been affected. The double/triple shifts are also making it hard for schools to plan for remedial programmes for learners with special educational needs and teachers complain of increased pupil teacher ratios. (Ministry of Education, PIF Document, 2004). Thus, it is the interest of the researcher to further assess the effects of overcrowding in classrooms towards the education of learners with special educational needs. The shortage of teaching resources is also another problem that is making the education of learners with special educational needs difficult. The shortages of teaching and learning aids worsened as a result of the implementation of free primary education. The number of pupils per text book was 2.9 prior to Free Primary Education, declining to 7.1 in 1994/5. Even more worrying is the fact that...
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