UNIVERSAL SECONDARY EDUCATION (USE) CAN BE A BLESSING TO LEARNERS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS IN UGANDA By Walubo Jude Tadeo Makerere University Kampala Uganda - East Africa

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As government makes a shift to Universal Secondary with priority to students with disabilities, policy makes including educational institutions, in the cabinet and at parliamentary level should focus on some of the following suggestions to make the policy a success.

They should account for the training of secondary education teachers in Special education especially in areas such as Deaf education, Sign Language, visual and mental impairment. This can be done through availing teachers with time and resources for training, workshops and seminars. A focus on human resources development, through various training and support programmes for all relevant role players (particularly educators) should be accounted for.

There is need for sensitisation to do away with the negative attitudes of most teachers and students towards children with disabilities are in many respects still a hindrance to the success. This reduces the stigma and other negative attitudes toward children disabilities resulting into excellency in academics.

Policy makers should also put in place infrastructure development packages for example the construction of more buildings to avoid congestion as the case is for UPE. The situation in rural schools as per the state of buildings is even worse because many students study under trees and the situation is awful when it comes to time for rainy seasons or extreme sunshine. The disabled students are mostly affected in this and should be helped.

Coupled with the above is the need for more teachers to reduce the teacher- student ratio. Like Primary Education with UPE, Secondary Education population is likely to explode increasing the disparity of the teacher student ration. Such is not conducive to proper learning and good standards and the children with disabilities who need special attention simply get "swallowed" in the congested classrooms, a situation policy makers need to avert.

The policy should be designed with the goal of helping these students with disabilities gain a measure of independence, assimilate into society, and ultimately attend school. Vocational and practical subjects should be emphasised to try and make these students job makers not seekers. Therefore, Uganda should make the policy of USE an effort to fulfil its commitment to the World Declaration on Education for all (Jomitien) 1990, which states that,

"Young child, youth and adult have a right to benefit from an education system that will meet their basic learning needs". (Jomtien, 1990)

Special consideration should also be made regarding the female students with disabilities while selecting those to come from each family. Given the fact that female students have for a long time been left out of education, which favours basically boys due to cultural beliefs, a good Universal Secondary Policy would be one that gives priority to both males and females.

Universal Secondary Education should be inclusive. That is children with disabilities should not be isolated from the rest of learners but should all attend the same class and this will make them feel a sense of belonging and comfort. This in turn leads to good grades.

It should not just be integrative like UPE but inclusive. In most countries since the 1980s there has been a movement towards integration of 'special education' into the mainstream. The terms 'integration', 'mainstreaming' and 'inclusion' have been used interchangeably, but Mittler (2000) maintains that there are real differences in values and practices between them.

The Universal Secondary Education policy should also be designed in such a way that it instils the spirit of positive attitudes towards children with disabilities in secondary schools. This can be through programmes like Guidance and counselling, workshops and seminars.

'Integration' involves preparing pupils for placement in ordinary mainstream schools where the pupil must be able to adapt to the school. 'Inclusive education' is based on a...
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