LAHORE: Laws enacted at the federal or the provincial levels to enforce Article 25-A (right to free education for all children between five and 16 years) of the Constitution must also include provisions for extending the right to children with disabilities, said speakers at a policy dialogue on inclusive higher education on Friday.
They urged the parliament to amend existing laws on provision of school education to add to them the Article 24 (right to free education for children with disabilities) of the United Nations Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities.
The speakers called upon the Higher Education Commission to develop policies for promotion of inclusive education at all higher education institutes in the country. They said monitoring mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that these policies were being implemented.
They said that rather than having special education departments and institutes to cater to education needs of children with disabilities, the government should ensure that all education institutes were equipped with facilities and funds to provide education to children with disabilities. “Children with or without disabilities should study together and be given the same opportunities,” they said. The training of teachers and allocation of funds in this regard should be ensured, they added.
HEC Director General Farmanullah Anjum stressed the need to change public perception towards people with disabilities. He said that the HEC had issued building guidelines requiring all education institutes to make their premises accessible for students with disabilities. “There is a need to ensure that the institutes implement these guidelines,” he said.
British Council External Relations head Muhammad Ali suggested that public committees be formed at the district- and the provincial- level to ensure implementation of policies seeking provision of inclusive higher education.
Ali said the BC was developing a programme for the provincial government to foster inclusive higher education in the province. The programme would be implemented at formal as well as informal education institutes, he added. He said the BC was collaborating with the HEC in designing a curriculum for training of teachers at higher education institutes on the education needs of students with disabilities.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) National Assembly Member Shaista Pervaiz Malik stressed that education of parents and training of teachers on care required for people with disabilities would be crucial for the success of efforts for inclusive higher education.
She said a large number of people with disabilities were yet to be incorporated into the country’s economy. She said the country could improve its gross domestic product (GDP) by utilising their potential.
The MNA said modern technology should be used to facilitate people with disabilities. She said the government had taken some steps in this regard.
Comprehensive Health and Education Forum (CHEF) chief executive officer Sohail Khan said there should be at least one school in every district to cater to the education needs of children with disabilities.
Other speakers highlighted the need for accessible buildings of courts and bar councils and associations. They referred to a 1981 ordinance that allocated a government jobs quota for people with disabilities and said that a similar quota should be enacted for jobs in the private sector as well.
The event took place at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2016.