On Friday, the Executive Director of UNEB, Daniel Odongo asked government to allocate more funds to the board for procurement of reading materials for special needs learners.
Odongo was speaking at a ceremony to release the 2022 PLE results at State House Lodge Nakaseero.
This is not the first time Odongo and other stakeholders in the education sector, Civil Society Organisations and Human Rights Defenders for Persons with Disabilities express concerns about the need for improvement on the financing of special needs education in Uganda.
Data at UNEB shows there was an increase in the number of students with special needs registering for national exams at different levels vis avis the limited number of reading materials.
According to UNEB, the Board registered 2,436 learners with Special Needs of various categories, including the blind, the deaf, the physically handicapped and the dyslexics, in 2022 compared to 1,599 in 2020. This is an increase of 52.3%, the largest rate of increase ever. Of these, 1,153 (47.3%) are females and 1,283 (52.7%) are males.
“A total of 1,609 of the candidates needed specialized assistance such as provision of braille, sign language interpreters, transcribers and physical support (amanuensis). The provision of this specialized support presents a big constraint on the Board’s budget,” he said
The statistics above are exclusive of hundreds of thousand candidates who registered to sit for UCE, UACE, UBTEB and other national examinations. One cannot imagine the unmentioned numbers of continuing students with special needs in primary, secondary, tertiary institutions and at University, a large number of them at the verge of dropping out of school due to similar challenges.
Despite many voices, the government and the ministry of Education headed by the first lady Janet Kataha Museveni are in a deep slumber and no efforts have been made to ensure more funds are provided to support training institutions, examinations bodies to mention but a few.
Procurement of reading materials like braille papers, hearing devices etcetera as well as paying the support staff such as sign language interpreters, transcribers and amanuensis is one of the costly activities failing private and public institutions. Many of these materials are imported which makes the cost so high and the students are victims of this challenge
Richard Musisi, the Executive Director of Masaka Association of People with Disabilities says out of 2.5 million Ugandan children living with disabilities, only 250,000 have access to education.
A 2022, report by the World Bank showed that around 16 percent of Ugandan children have a disability, meaning most children with disabilities are not able to attend school.
This calls for more improvement on the environment of special needs education in the country.
Training of more human resource and recruitment of specialized personnel, establishment of disability friendly infrastructures, procurement of reading materials in schools should be given priority as the only mean to achieve this improvement. Let us create a conducive environment to give equal education opportunities to students with special needs as their other counterparts.