COVID-19: Special Educators Make Case for Special Needs Children

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Uchechukwu Nnaike

As the world grapples with the harsh realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, some special educators have called on governments, teachers and caregivers to help reduce the educational inequalities of children with special needs
A special educator and former Head, Department of Special Education at the University of Ibadan, Professor Olufemi Fakolade, made the appeal while speaking at the recent webinar on Supporting Children and Persons with Special Needs During COVID-19 Pandemic, hosted by a Lagos-based frontline non-governmenal organisation on special education, the Inclusive Education and IEP Centre (IEIEPC).

“In a health crisis as COVID-19, persons with disabilities are often provided with less help. But it is the collective responsibility of governments, teachers and caregivers to help reduce educational inequality for students with disabilities, especially during a time of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Fakolade, while noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the education of special needs children, decried the lack of ICT skills and knowledge by special educators, a development which currently hampers their effectiveness.

“They are negatively affected by the classroom shutdown because of the unavailability of resources such as equipment, internet access, specially designed materials and trained manpower support. Again, they cannot relate and socialize with their friends, which is equally important for their learning and development.”

Speaking also, Dr. John Oyundoyin of the Department of Special Education, University of Ibadan, said government at all levels must play active roles in ensuring the development, training and general wellbeing of people living with disabilities especially in the COVID-19 era.

The renowned special educator tasked the federal and state governments to urgently look into all factors that hamper access to quality education of special needs individuals, including policy legislation, financing, human resources and data.

Oyundoyin also called on the government to recognise caregivers as essential service providers.
“There should be recruitment of caregivers and disability organisations workers into the COVID-19 taskforce because they have a better understanding of these categories of people. Government at all levels- local, state and federal should involve the caregivers in homes, institutions and organisations as part of the systemic, long-term plan to improving the quality of life of these categories of people,” he stated.

Other notable special education professionals, who spoke at the webinar were: Mr. Oyeyinka Oluwawumi, Director, IEIEPC and Prof. Tolu Eniolorunda, President, International Association of Special Education (IASE), Nigerian chapter
The IEIEPC is a non-governmental organisation devoted to improving lives of special needs children and persons through advocacy and enlightenment campaign for inclusion, providing services, training teachers, parents and other stakeholders on issues of inclusive education, special education and individualised educational planning in unique ways that improve the quality of life and maximise the learning potential of persons with special needs.