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Children with disabilities being left behind in Jordan — Prince Mired

‘Almost all’ schools in Kingdom ill-equipped for inclusive education

By Rula Samain - Feb 24,2019 - Last updated at Feb 25,2019

HRH Prince Mired, president of Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, says that thousands of children with disabilities in Jordan are deprived of the right to education (Photo courtesy of the Alliance Academy of Jordan)

AMMAN — Children with disabilities are entitled to education like any other child; however, thousands of children in Jordan are deprived of this right, said HRH Prince Mired, president of Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (HCD).

The HCD was established in 2007 as the Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities with the aim to improve the lives of people with disabilities and enforce their right to participate in society, according to its website.

Prince Mired told The Jordan Times in a recent interview that since children with disabilities are excluded from the general education system, the majority (85 per cent-95 per cent) are being educated in isolation from the community, if they receive education at all.

According to The United Nations Children’s Fund, on average 90 per cent of children with disabilities living in low-income countries have never received any form of education.

The prince said that many disabled children around the Kingdom are shut inside their homes due to cultural stigma, or put in special centres for the disabled.

In Jordan, children with disabilities aged five and older accounted for 11.2 per cent of children from the same age group in 2015, according to the General Population and Housing Census issued by the Department of Statistics.

There are almost 500,000 children with disabilities under the age of 18 in Jordan and, by law, all Jordanian children should have access to education free from discrimination, Prince Mired said.

“Children with disabilities are citizens just like any normal person, thus, [they] have the same fundamental rights as their fellow citizens of the same age, which implies the right to enjoy a decent life, as normal and full as possible.”

The disabled, he continued, have the inherent right to be respected for their human dignity, which is protected under Jordanian law and stipulates the social responsibility of all concerned parties.

“If we are able to apply the letters of the law, society would be in a better place,” Prince Mired said.

There remains a large gap between policy and practice, he added, and called on all parties concerned to engage in serious and sincere steps to apply the law and provide disabled children with their rights.

According to a World Health Organisation report from 2011, disabilities are present in every race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age and religion; 15 per cent of the world’s population has some sort of disability. This includes an estimated 150 million children with 80 per cent of these children living in the developing world.

Prince Mired said that inclusive education is the solution: “It challenges the educational system to make our schools a place where all children can participate.”

Simply put, the prince said, the journey to becoming an inclusive school may be long and challenging at times, but ultimately this journey can strengthen a community and benefit all children.

“In the long run, and with the proper education, they [children with disabilities] will find jobs; they might become professors, scientists or doctors, among other professions; but most importantly, they will become productive members of society rather than dependent and thus shift from being a tax taker to a tax giver.”

“Unfortunately almost all of our governmental and private schools are not equipped for inclusive education; almost all lack school structure, designed curricula and teachers’ training,” Prince Mired stated.

He added that private schools should not consider themselves as superior, while at the same time denying disabled children an education.

Budget or funding shortfalls can serve as a barrier to implementing inclusive education, however, educational reform and inclusive education should be a process rather than a project, he said.

An example for inclusive education

The prince highlighted the work of the Alliance Academy of Jordan (AAJ), which he has visited twice so far, in providing an example of how to implement inclusive education.

The AAJ’s representative, Habis Nimat, told the Jordan Times that the school, a non-profit organisation, was built on the idea of providing a special service to the community while bearing in mind the marginalised children of society.

The AAJ accommodates children from kindergarten to the seventh grade, regardless of their nationality, social or physical conditions, said Nimat.

“We have 330 students from different countries including Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Canada, the US, Brazil and Germany. The disabled students make up 15 per cent of our total students,” Nimat said.

According to Nimat, inclusive education is not something one teaches, but lives, and thus the AAJ charges lower fees than other schools and provides academic support specialists free of charge.

“We [the educational system] should learn and benefit from their rich experience and build on it,” Prince Mired said.

Carol Jadoun, the AJJ’s principal, said that inclusive education is new to the community, and some often mistake it for a special education school.

The AAJ, she added, places great importance on creating opportunities for all students to learn and be assessed in a variety of ways.

“AAJ provides the support needed for students with special needs both in the classrooms by having learning aid teachers, and outside the classrooms with specialists.”

The AAJ considers a wide range of learning modalities [visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, etc] in designing instructions, and improving the way in which educators provide support and accommodation for students with disabilities, but it also diversifies the educational experience for all students, the principal said.

Waleed Qaraeen, a 10-year-old student without disabilities, said it was important to respect people and added that “respect means not making fun of others just because they are different than us”.

The principal said that the positive impact of inclusive education on all children immeasurable.

Jadoun said that among the many values students with and without disabilities learn, is to appreciate and accept other individuals’ differences, accept diversity and respect all people.

Haneen Hammad, the mother of 5-year-old Rashed, who was born with spina bifida, said that her son was rejected from almost every school she approached because of his disability, and others demanded extra fees that her family could not afford.

She added that her son, who has never walked, was provided with needed therapy and care by the AAJ, and started walking with a walker in less than a year.

“When the school opened in our neighbourhood I could not believe my luck; they not only accepted Rashed, but also provided therapy that helped improve his condition.”

After a year-an-a-half, the mother continued, Rashed walked with the help of a walker, and can take a few steps on his own. “It is a blessing.”

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