By Bianca Iboma-Emefu
Education is a fundamental right under both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1999 constitution of Nigeria.
This inalienable right and how it can be equally accessible to all, irrespective of their status, dominated discussions at the recent one-day capacity-building workshop for Nigeria Association of Social Workers (NASoW).
The workshop held in 14 states of the federation and the Federal capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Specifically, the focus of the workshop was on the need to ensure inclusivity for people living with disabilities (PLWDs).
Leading the discussion, the executive director of the Centre for Youths Studies, Mrs Seyi Sanjo- Bankole, urged government at all levels to review education curriculum and policies to ensure that PLWDs have access to qualitative education.
She noted that favourable and conducive policies would enable PLWDs thrive in their educational pursuit. She added that the society would better appreciate people with disability if they understood them.
She said: “Currently, our society view persons living with disabilities as people in need of charity, but that is not true; they are individuals capable of contributing significantly to the development of our society.
“We had an interactive session and discovered that there is need for society to understand disabilities, since social workers interact closely with them, we have decided to equip the social workers for the task ahead.
“The group enlightenment initiative on the social workers is to equip social workers with the skills to effectively manage persons with disabilities and bring out the best in them.”
According to her, in addition to the training, the foundation would also offer practical sessions for public schools in all the centres.
She noted that the workshop is an initiative designed to support persons living with disabilities and harness their potentials as well as empower them.
A disability right advocate, living with cerebral palsy, Ms Tobiloba Ajayi, in her presentation, urged the government to include the special needs of PLWDs when building infrastructures so they can easily access it.
She stated that inclusive education is cheaper and promotes unity, togetherness, and builds self-esteem and confidence of people with special needs.
“We need to examine this policy to see young people equipped with knowledge of disabilities and lay a foundation for a systemic overhauling in the perceptions of persons with disabilities,” she said, and stressed the need to break down barriers, discrimination and stigmatisation against PLWDs.
In his paper titled, ‘The case for a curriculum review and inclusion of disabilities study in social work,’ Mr. Dada Shonibare, a former director of the National Education Research, urged the government to address the gaps in the in the infrastructure system to suit the needs of PLWDs.
Anthonia Bakare, a volunteer at the Centre for Youths Studies, noted that interactions with social workers revealed that some of them have little understanding about the welfare of persons living with disabilities.
She urged government to review policies and create more public enlightenment programmes for society to be conscious on how to relate with them.
She said: “This set of persons can live independently once equipped with the right resources. Policies like inclusiveness in education, political scene, workspace, among others. For instance, the society does not allow children with disabilities to attend normal school. We want an inclusive education where they can have access to qualitative learning without deprivation.
“People with disabilities need a very strong support system, if government can review their policies and have an inclusive education, I think it would go a long way for them, society perception of them would change.”