Throughout history, people with disabilities and learning difficulties have been regarded as a manifestation of God’s punishment for sins. They were usually mocked and excluded from the community and they sought out and depended for care and refuge from religious societies (Jordan et al, 2008). According to Eskay et al (2012), in the African society, culture tends to play a role in how people with disabilities are perceived. They went on to outline some of the reasons associated with children with disabilities such as “curse from God or gods of the land, offense against ancestors, belief in witches and wizards, end-result of unapproved marriages and adultery and even possessing evil spirits” (Eskay et al, 2012:478). By the 19th century, these disabilities and learning difficulties, mental or physical were regarded as medical conditions requiring treatment. As regards education, a segregated provision was made available to those diagnosed as incapable (Jordan et al, 2008) while in Nigeria where education tends to be viewed as a means for individuals to contribute to the development of the society, people with disabilities were regarded as incapable of meeting societal expectations. Eskay et al pointed out that nevertheless, these individuals were still educated alongside ‘normal’ children albeit the negative perception (Eskay et al, 2012). In addition, Jordan et al, (2008) further stated that special education needs (SEN) is viewed in more political contexts in relations to human rights as issues have been raised ranging from discriminatory practices from education and employment to social acceptance (Jordan et al, 2008). Agunloye et al (2011) opined that the Federal Government of Nigeria started to pay attention to children with disabilities following the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil war of 1967 and this led to Section 8 being included in the 1977 National Policy of Education (NPE). Obiakor (1998) explained that Section 8 “proposed the integration of handicapped children into regular classrooms...special education for the gifted and talented...and provision of suitable employment opportunities” (1998:62). Thus, Garuba (2003) suggested that the special education as stipulated in the policy aimed “to give concrete meaning to the idea of equalising education opportunities for all children” (2003: 193) and this was reiterated by Obiakor (2011) saying “the overall aim of education appears to be focused on educating children in a comprehensive manner to the extent that those with disabilities will find something at their skill level for self-sustenance”
(Obiakor, 2011: 28)
As it is the case with most developing countries, the above policy formulations based on the philosophy of achieving education for all through qualitative education is driven by international trends which led to Nigeria being a signatory to the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on SEN 1994. According to UNESCO (1994), the Framework stipulates that “schools should accommodate all children regardless of their physical, intellectual...or other conditions” (UNESCO, 1994:1). Nigeria also signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and also the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; the latter leading to the enactment of the Child’s Rights Act of 2003. The CRC defines ‘a child’ as being under the age of 18 therefore applying to all children non-discriminatorily. The protection of rights (information, education, health services, social security, parental guidance, expression, privacy etcetera) as well as the overall best interest of the child should be of primary concern to the government, parents and guardians (UNICEF, 2007). Furthermore, the 1999 NPE formulated the Universal Basic Education (UBE) policy which was enacted into law in 2004. The 2004 UBE Act provides for free and compulsory education to all children from 5-16 years old, it also caters for nomads, migrant fishing people,...
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