“Only four per cent of children with special needs have access to schools in Pakistan,” University of Management and Technology (UMT) Department of Education Chairman Sajid Masood said on Thursday.
He was talking at a panel discussion titled Inclusive Education: Access to Quality Education of Children with Special Needs and Role of Teachers arranged by Alif Ailaan in collaboration with the UMT.
Masood said 66 per cent of disabled people in Pakistan lived in rural areas, and 34 per cent in urban areas.
He said 58 per cent of people with disabilities were male.
Masood said the statistics of children with disabilities were approximate as there had been no national census since 1998.
He said school campuses should be designed to provide for with disabilities.
Dean Abdul Hamid said in 2010, the Special Education Department had started a door-to-door campaign to search for people with disabilities He said in Shiekhupura 2,000 with people disabilities were registered. He said the actual figure was believed to be 30,000.
“The problem with children with disabilities is that they are almost invisible,” he said.
Dr. Shahid Farooq, from the University of the Punjab, said, ”It is time for a uniform education system with equal opportunities for everyone.”
He said the government wanted teachers to prepare the future generations of Pakistan but gave them low pay scales.
Singer Jawad Ahmed, representing the International Youth Movement, said, “It is a matter of great concern that so many people in the country live below the poverty line.”
“Pakistan is divided along so many fault lines; economic, colour, caste and creed. A uniform education system will help bridge the gaps,” he said.
He urged the youth to come forward and participate actively in national affairs.
Jawad also sang a motivational song for the youth, urging them to fight for their rights.
Chief guest Asif Saeed Manais, the minister for special education, said the government was starting its first pilot schools for inclusive education in Bahawalpur and Chiniot. He said the government had made it mandatory for school campuses to have facilities for disabled students.
Manais said that after the 18th amendment the topic of special education devolved to provinces completely to deal with it independently.
“Inclusive education is important but first we need to understand the disabilities. It is a challenge to bring 0.7 million people with disabilities to the schools,” Manais said.
Manais said one of the biggest problems faced by children with disabilities was mobility. He said the government was hoping to draw in students who had visual impairments.
“I strongly believe that their abilities are stronger than their disabilities,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2013.