Aims

What were the main aims of the initiative?

Recent research findings aiming to raise awareness about special education have emphasised the need to strengthen policy and to revisit teacher education programmes. Professional development with a focus on inclusive pedagogy is important for empowering teachers and all education stakeholders. Accordingly, modules are being written and tested with pedagogic inspectors and teachers. For example, about 70,357 teachers in primary schools need in-service training. The University of Buea has three programmes on special education, including short courses for developing specific skills and enabling individuals to realise their potential.

Theme

This programme of work aims to:

  • develop long- and short-term courses on special education and inclusive practices;
  • develop the competences of teachers and school managers on issues and trends relating to inclusive education through short-term programmes;
  • implement inclusive education in schools to assist all learners experiencing barriers to learning in ordinary schools;
  • create strategies for networking so that pedagogic experiences can be shared;
  • conduct research to inform policy makers and the educational community on issues relating to the successful implementation of inclusive education;
  • engage parents in decision-making and practices on inclusive education so as to make the community aware of their roles as change agents, ensuring the contribution of all in the sustainable development process.

Background

Location, setting, Scope, key events etc.

The work is carried out in in the South-West Region of Cameroon.

Divisions: Fako, Koupé-Manengouba, Lebialem, Manyu, Meme, Ndian

Capital: Buea

Area: 25,410 square kilometres

Population: 1,316,079·(2005 population census)

Population density: 52 people per square kilometre (135 people per square mile)

Target group: All trained teachers in primary schools in the South-West Region of Cameroon.

ISSUES ADDRESSED

What issues/challenges does the example address?

Within the context of Cameroon, the issue of teacher education for the development of an inclusive system poses a lot of challenges at the level of policy and implementation. There are laws in Cameroon that seem to foster inclusive practices. In its preamble, Cameroon’s Constitution states that:

The state shall guarantee the child’s right to education. Primary education shall be compulsory. The organisation and supervision of education at all levels shall be the bounden duty of the state.

Furthermore, Law No. 83/13 of 21 July 1983 protects persons with disabilities and its enabling Decree No. 90/1516 of 26 November 1990 authorises an age waiver, the right to repeat, remedial classes, exemption from payment of school fees and financial assistance to children with disabilities and those born to needy parents with disabilities at all levels of public secondary education. Law No. 98/004 of 14 April 1998 also lays down guidelines for education in Cameroon, whereby Article 7 stipulates that the state shall guarantee equal opportunities for education to all, without discrimination on the grounds of gender, differences in political, philosophical or religious opinions, or social, cultural, linguistic or geographical origins. Law No. 005 of 16 April 2001, on the orientation of higher education, states that higher education shall participate in eradicating all forms of discrimination and contribute to strengthening equal opportunities for all.

With regard to these laws, joint circular letter number 34/06 of 2 August 2006, signed by the Ministers of Secondary Education and Social Affairs, acknowledges the identification and admission of students with disabilities in regular government schools. This is done within the confines of the intake allowed by the Ministry of Secondary Education. In the same vein, the Ministries of Higher Education and Social Affairs issued another circular on 9 June 2008 emphasising identification, admission and the provision of infrastructure and equipment to students with disabilities in all state universities.

As is the case on the international scene, these laws and circulars did not address the critical issue of teacher education and training of teacher educators who possess the necessary characteristics for an inclusive system. Hence, there remains a policy gap at the level of teacher education, which posits a great barrier to the implementation of inclusive educational practices. In addition to the policy gap, there is also the absence of a guiding theoretical frame directing attention to critical issues that concern development and learning. For example, Vygotsky (1978) believed that each student operates within a range of ability and that educators would best facilitate learning by presenting students with work that challenges them without overwhelming them.

The policies and legislation outlined previously contain provisions that are not in tune with the realities of the current context of practices from the perspective of human, technical and infrastructural resources. In the African worldview, inclusion can assume some of Maslow’s (1970) theoretical framework, where the concern for belongingness reflects the African philosophy of humanness, respect and empathy. These explain the very important concerns for connectedness.

 

Implementation

How was the Initiative implemented?

Action

Objective(s)

Strategies

Time frame

Key persons / collaboration

Establishing international contact

To identify key institutions in the north and south for collaboration

Signing a Memorandum of Understanding

2008 - 2015

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buea and other

Situational analysis

To identify the number of children with disabilities in the Cameroon school system

Data collection, with support from teachers and school authorities

2010 - 2013

UNESCO Chair, Sightsavers, Teacher Task Force, UNESCO Paris, schools, universities and parents

Capacity building

To develop the skills and competences of educators and teachers for the management of inclusive practices

B.Ed., M.Ed., PhD and short-term courses organised during holidays, such as seminars, symposia, workshops and conferences

2013–2015

On-going

Dean of Education, UNESCO Chair, Head of Department, Ministries of Education and the community

Collaboration

To develop networks between teachers, school administrators, universities, local authorities and international institutions

Joint planning meetings, co-supervision and co-teaching

2010 - 2015

All the stakeholders responsible for policy and education

Research

To establish research relationships

Conduct of cross-researching; school/university and transnational research for south-south and north-south dialogue on inclusive education

2008 - 2015

Funding partners, international collaborators in universities in Africa and Europe

KEY OUTCOMES & IMPACT

What where the key Outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?

Through the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the University of Buea in Cameroon and the University of Education in Winneba, lecturers specialising in special education lecture in the programmes. A brief partnership existed for teaching between the University of Buea and the University of Bristol, particularly in the area of building research capacity for special education.

Situational analyses of pupils with disabilities in schools in the North-West, South-West, Littoral, Centre and Far North Regions of Cameroon have provided the UNESCO Chair with partially aggregated statistics and a data bank of children with disabilities in ordinary schools in these regions and in some universities. This work has created an awareness of the situation of children with disabilities in ordinary schools in Cameroon.

Figure 1: Workshop on inclusive education for members of Central Services in Education, lecturers, teachers and students in special education programmes

Figure 1: Workshop on inclusive education for members of Central Services in Education, lecturers, teachers and students in special education programmes

By jointly participating in workshops organised by the Ministry of Basic Education and Sightsavers Cameroon to train teachers on inclusive education, ordinary teachers and pedagogic inspectors have acquired skills in inclusive practices and the use of assistive technologies. Collaboration with other stakeholders has brought strong support and the opportunity to share experiences. This has increased the flow of information and interaction on issues relating to the education of persons with special education needs and the continuous training of teachers.

Transnational research across five countries (Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria and Togo), funded by the Teacher Task Force with support from the Director, Dr Edem, on institutional preparedness for inclusive practices, has provided an opportunity to identify best practices. Valorisation of the findings to the general public and policy makers has increased awareness of the plight of teachers and their quest for upward mobility. This issue was not recognised until the UNESCO Chair conducted this research.

The Chair received a donation to fund a computer resource room from Cameroon’s First Lady, Madame Chantal Biya, who is also a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Students with visual impairments at the University of Buea conduct peer tutoring in their computer lessons, using JAWS screen reader software.

Figures 2 and 3: Peer tutoring on the use of screen reader software for IT applications Figures 2 and 3: Peer tutoring on the use of screen reader software for IT applications

Figures 2 and 3: Peer tutoring on the use of screen reader software for IT applications

Standard Chartered Bank donated the Braille and all other assistive technology devices to enhance the learning environment of students with visual impairments and those whose specialty is in this area of disability.

Figures 4 and 5: Capacity-building workshop for using assistive technology devices Figures 4 and 5: Capacity-building workshop for using assistive technology devices

Figures 4 and 5: Capacity-building workshop for using assistive technology devices

The quantum magnetic resonance body analyser is a valuable tool to identify trace element deficiencies in children. Children with learning disabilities are often excluded from classroom activities due to their inability to read, spell and write, thereby leading to cognitive, behavioural and psychological disorders. Some of these inabilities are due to deficient or excess body nutrients/trace elements, such as lead, zinc, iron or folic acid, which can only be detected through the use of the quantum magnetic resonance body analyser for future correction and replacement. If corrective and replacement therapy does not take place, it often results in intellectual and attention deficits and permanent behavioural, developmental and functional impairments. Following effective correction and replacement of these deficient trace minerals, these children’s ability to read, write and spell improves, enabling them to participate fully in their class activities and thus enhancing inclusion.

Figure 6: Quantum magnetic resonance body analyser

Figure 6: Quantum magnetic resonance body analyser

Figure 7: Clinical demonstration of the quantum magnetic resonance body analyser

Figure 7: Clinical demonstration of the quantum magnetic resonance body analyser

The MTN Foundation donated the atomic absorption electrophotometer to enrich clinical activities in all areas of learning disabilities. Postgraduate students are developing diagnostic skills so they can reach out to communities and schools.

Figure 8: Atomic absorption electrophotometer

Figure 8: Atomic absorption electrophotometer

There is also audiology screening equipment, which was donated by the Mayor of Buea Municipality. Since it is portable, students take it to schools to diagnose pupils with hearing problems that may be unknown to the teachers. Through this activity, teachers and parents become aware of some of the problems faced by pupils and students who were not previously identified and for whom appropriate pedagogy was not put in place. These activities have led to the need to create specific, well-equipped resource rooms for clinical practice.

Figures 9 and 10: Postgraduate students using audiology equipment for screening and diagnosis Figures 9 and 10: Postgraduate students using audiology equipment for screening and diagnosis

Figures 9 and 10: Postgraduate students using audiology equipment for screening and diagnosis

In the area of publication, two volumes of the African Journal of Special Education have been produced and a third is in press. The second volume of the Journal of Inclusive Education for West and Central Africa, the Cameroon edition, is being edited.

EVALUATION

Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?

During the seminars, workshops and teacher training, the Chair developed a set of guiding questions, based on the terms of reference and results of the documentation reviewed. Using the information, the Chair and team members were able to adjust the conduct of activities.

The challenges are as follows:

  • The capacity building programme lacks financial capacity.
  • Publications are being delayed because of a lack of finances.
  • There is no adequate, appropriate infrastructure.
  • Participation in and organisation of workshops and training programmes could be regular if there were adequate finances.
  • Translation of documents is required to ensure information flow to all stakeholders.
  • There is the need for political will at all levels.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS / SUSTAINABILITY

Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?

The following activities are planned:

  • Organisation of training workshops in other regions of the country to build the capacity of ordinary teachers on issues relating to inclusive education.
  • Fully equipped resource rooms for specific disabilities with relevant assistive technology devices, which teachers can visit regularly to upgrade their skills.
  • Activities through the Chair, to ensure that 50% of ordinary school teachers will have some knowledge and skills in inclusive education practices by 2019, which is the end of her mandate.
  • Enhanced publication of existing articles and the writing of more articles to give teachers access to quality journal articles in the domain of inclusive education.
  • Development and translation of a training manual for regular teachers on inclusive education.

To ensure sustainability, the Chair envisages the creation of a special education centre, open to the public, where identification, diagnoses, referrals and corrective therapy shall be performed.

LEARNING POINTS

What are the main learning points?

It is important that parents and other caregivers of children understand inclusive education and the services offered, as well as what will change in schools and the education system to accommodate the needs of all pupils. The parents must believe in the project and its goals – only then will they start to send their children to inclusive schools. Not having the parents of children with disabilities on-board is a great loss for the project, as these parents are effective tools for influencing school policies. They have the potential to become active agents for the project and inclusive education. The project plan for 2015 recognises parents as important stakeholders.

The Chair recommends the implementation of more awareness campaigns for the parents of children with disabilities and other children who face challenges in school. It is necessary to inform the parents about:

  • The benefits of education for their children
  • Their children’s right to education
  • Their obligation to give their children an education
  • Inclusive education and what it means for them as parents and for their children
  • The fact that parents and children will receive additional support and individualised services to develop the children’s potential.

Materials

Are there further information about supporting materials?

no additional materials available

ContacT

location
Location

send a message
Send a message

Pauline Nalova Lyonga, PhD

Vice Chancellor, University of Buea Faculty of Education, P.O. Box 63

Andre Mvesso PhD

Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Buea Faculty of Education, P.O. Box 63

Additional information

The UNESCO Chair Team

Therese Mungah Shalo Tchombe PhD, Emeritus Professor and Honorary Dean, UNESCO Chair for Special Needs Education

Euphrasia Yuh PhD, University of Buea

Patrick Shey PhD, University of Buea

Sarah Nsagha PhD, University of Buea (National President of the Association for Inclusive Education)

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