The Director of Programmes, British Council, Chikodi Onyeremela, has said prioritising inclusive education to cater for special needs children would help provide equal opportunities and platforms for everyone to thrive.
Onyeremela stated this in Abuja at the Annual Inclusive Education Conference organised by the council, on Tuesday.
He said: “Nations across the world deploy inclusive strategies into their educational system. We must at this stage cast our net far and wide. There is a thin line between ability and disability. Therefore, the government must put mechanisms in place to ensure disability concern is taken care of in our educational system.”
In her remarks, the Country Director, British Council, Nigeria, Lucy Pearson tasked the government on inclusive policy formulation as well as mainstreaming the policy into the system.
She said it is high time Nigeria transformed her educational system to make it conducive for persons with special needs.
The Minister of State for Education, Dr Yusuf Sununu, said: “Inclusive education is not a mantra; it is a moral and societal imperative. It means creating environments where diversity is celebrated, where every child, irrespective of ability, disability, socioeconomic status, or cultural background, is welcomed and afforded the same opportunities to learn and grow.”
Sununu, represented by his aide, Atiku Abubakar, said in support of inclusion and equality, Nigeria had signed and ratified the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 24.
He said the article provided that all schools must be inclusive, and accessible to all children including those with disabilities.
According to him, Nigeria also signed to the 17 SDGs), particularly goal 4 with inspirational targets that by 2030, all school-age children, including those with disabilities, must have access to qualitative, functional, and effective basic education.
“Recognising the diverse needs of our students, we will continue to strengthen and expand Inclusive education programmes and provide services that ensure that no child is left behind,” he said.
Also, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Educational Research Development Council (NERDC), Prof. Ismail Junaidu, said inclusion and equity are critical drivers in achieving 21st century learning.
He said the government must take responsibility for fulfilling the fundamental rights of the education of the children.
He said NERDC already has a robust framework for special needs education in Nigeria but implementing the framework needs an holistic approach which requires immediate attention.