The policy further states that education Of children with special needs shall be free at all levels and all necessary facilities that would ensure easy access to quality education shall e provided under Education for All (FEE) initiatives. These statements appear lofty, but their attainment under the present dispensation seems to be a mirage. Already, little or no attention is paid to persons with special needs. Furthermore, there are not enough trained specialist. The implication of this state of affairs in persons with special needs is that they are not adequately provided for.
Worst still, the challenge of non-availability of assisted technology and lack of proper funding has hindered access to quality education. This paper therefore examines these trends and further identifies he prospects of the way forward. Introduction Education is an instrument of social mobility, a potent factor in national development and in social engineering. Education is not just the bedrock of any civilization, but it is also, an essential tool for national growth and development.
In realization of the important role which education plays as an agent of National development and globalization, there has been agitation for more functional and qualitative education all over the world. This agitation and concern for quality education for all and sundry is reflected in the inauguration of Education for All (FEE) in Joined (Thailand) in 1 990 and Dakar in 2000. The intention was the reduction of illiteracy to the barest minimum by 2015 by world nations and the achievement of item two of the Millennium Development Goals (Megs).
Special needs education as a subsystem of education charged with the responsibility of equalizing educational opportunity for exceptional children is expected to have its fair share of qualitative education for persons with special needs. It is important to note that persons with special needs are exceptional individuals who ARQ Eire access to quality education to suit their peculiar learning needs resulting from their special circumstances.
The National Policy on Education (2004) identified and classified persons with special needs as the disabled, the disadvantaged and gifted/talented. SCIENCES (1994) has added two new special cases for special needs education. They include children experiencing difficulties in school whether temporary or permanent and those not attending school whatever may be the reason. With these additions, the case load of special needs education has doubled beyond the traditional cases with clinical manifestation (Shoji, 2009).
In the words of Label and Allele (2009), education is a very vital tool for social change and transformation as well as national development – special needs education in the form of quality education, is an interaction strategy purposely set up as an education plan to ameliorate the education needs of persons with special needs. With this qualitative education provision, persons with special needs are integrated into the system to achieve higher educational objectives. In this case, quality education plays a role in the transformation of exceptional persons by making them independent and self – reliant.
In Nigeria, access to quality education for persons with special needs has witnessed severed challenges. This paper tries to examine these challenges and prospects of access to quality education for persons with special needs through Education for All (FEE). The Concept of Quality Education in Nigeria Quality is a slippery concept which implies different things to different people (Prefer & Cote, 1991). Quality refers to the standard of a phenomenon when it is compared to other things like it: how good or bad something is, that is, to be of good/bad quality or of a high standard.
In this context, it is associated with the “monitoring and evaluation component of education” to see whether the outcome is good and of the intended standard. In view of this, topical issues of Nigerian education system today centre around the quality of education imparted to the citizenry and the relevance of that education to the life of the individual in particular and the nation in general. Quality education as defined by Lollygag (1 997), is the arrangement made or the mechanism put in place to maintain the degree of excellence of a product or service.
Applied to education, it means the mechanism by which an education system ensures that the service it delivers or intends to deliver serves the purpose for which it is intended. It focuses on the means by which an educational system ensures that the service it provided remains relevant and appropriate to the needs of society. Quality is the ability or degree with which a product, service or phenomenon conforms, to an established standard, and which makes it to be relatively superior to others.
With respect to quality education for persons with special needs, it Implies the ability with which an education system conforms to the established standard and appropriateness of the inputs available for the delivery of the system (Fading, 1999). Furthermore, the indices for the provision of quality education in Nigeria include: Learners: their entry behaviors, characteristics and attributes including some demographic factors that can inhibit or facilitate their learning. Teachers: their entry qualifications, values, pedagogic skills and professional preparedness.
Teaching/Learning Process: this includes the structure of the curriculum and learning environment. Flow of Operational Fund: The adequacy and regularity of operational fund goes a long way in the revision of quality education in Nigeria. Derided (2004) enumerated two aspects of quality in education, which are both internal and external. The internal aspect is the implementations of the school objectives; while the external aspect deals with the implementation of national objectives which are prerequisites to the achievement of quality in any educational institution.
Definition of Persons with Special Needs Persons with special needs include all persons (children inclusive) who, for whatever reasons, are failing to benefit from school (UNESCO, 1994). Shoji and Mug cited by Unseen (2006) defined persons with special needs as those with significant sensory defects or unusual high intellectual ability that are not properly addressed in the regular programmer”. They further opined that a highly intelligent child is a child with outstanding achievement and ability who is not well catered for in the regular classroom.
Similarly, Kane (2008) is of the opinion ion that persons with special needs are those generally referred to exceptional persons and they comprise children, youths and adults with one form of disability or learning difficulty or the other. In other words, persons with special needs are those persons/children who cannot inept maximally from the regular classroom teaching/learning experiences on account of physical, mental, emotional and other sundry disabilities, which may or may not be easily identified.
Therefore, persons with special needs, needs to be given special attention because they are a unique group of individuals who need care and are entitled to access to quality education in Nigeria In order to conform to the Education for All (FEE) initiative by year 2015. Categories of Persons with Special Needs From the definition of persons with special needs, many categories can be identified. For instance, the National Policy on Education (2004) categorized special needs persons into three main categories. These are:- 1.
The Disabled: Under this Category are people with impairment (physical, sensory) and because of impairment/disability cannot cope with regular school/class organization and methods with formal special education training. They include those who are usually impaired, hearing impaired, physical or health impaired, mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed, learning disabled and those with one form of handicap or the other. 2. The Disadvantaged: Those ho fall under this group are the children of nomadic pastorals, migrant fishermen, hunters etc.
They are those who, due to their life styles and means of livelihood, are unable to have access to the conventional education provision and therefore require special education to cater for their peculiar needs and circumstances. 3. The Gifted and Talented: persons (children and adult) who possess very high intelligent quotient and are naturally endowed with special traits and therefore find themselves insufficiently challenged by the regular school programmer.
Similarly, Kane (2008) identified twelve disgorges of persons with special needs to include: I) Mental retardation ii) Learning disabilities iii) Emotional and behavior disorder iv) Communication disorder v) Hearing loss vi) Blindness and low vision vii) Physical disability viii) Autism ix) Severe disability x) Multiple disability xi) Deaf/blindness xii) Gifted and talented Providing Quality Education for Persons with Special needs In order to provide quality education within the framework of Education for All (FEE), it is imperative that adequate resources and materials be made available to Cater for the individuality Of persons with special needs. As indicated earlier on, the National Policy on Education (FIG, 2004) states that the aim of education for persons with special needs should among others “provide adequate quality education for persons with special needs in order that they may fully contribute their own quota to the development of the nation” (P. 42) Unseen (2006), for instance suggests that in the school setting, materials for the following services should be provided. Reading: Speech and language therapy, daily living skills counseling, identification screen and assessment placement, evaluation services among others.
Other materials ND personnel to be provided in the opinion of unseen (2006) include: chairs, tables, vehicles, earphone, Braille machines and papers, wheel chairs, visually impaired specialist and hearing impaired specialist. In the same vein, Undivided (2003) opines that “persons with such an array of problems needs flexible curriculum that would provide an enabling environment for total development of their three domains – cognitive, affective and psychometric” (P. 278). It is also advocated that as much as practicable, all issues affecting persons with special needs should be discussed with them and they be actively involved in the decision – making process that affect them.
Furthermore, Mall and Haggis (2000) recommended ways of providing quality education for persons with special needs to include among others: I) Introduction of remedial programmer. This is intended to remedy the deficiency identified with the child. It is with a view to enabling him/her catch up with his/her mates. Ii) Ability grouping. This is where persons are grouped according to the level of their intellectual ability so that they can progress at their own speed. Iii) Child – centered learning: Here the child is made the enter of the teaching / learning process. The teacher merely serves as a guide by providing the enabling learning environment. Iv) Adopting of individualized instruction.
This allows the child to learn at his or her rate v) Intra – class grouping. Vi) Programmer instruction. Here the learning material is arranged step by step beginning with the simplest. Vii) Use of class projects. In the opinion of Hussy et al (2002), “class projects provide a wealth of opportunities for adapting instruction to the variations of differences among students”. Viii) use of field strips. Challenges / Problems Some of the challenges or problems militating against the provision of quality education for persons with special needs in Nigeria include among others: 1) Lack of trained specialists to handle persons with special needs in the classroom.
These trained specialists are the manpower referring to the personnel or human resources trained to achieve particular goals. Manpower in special education includes the special educators or teachers. Right now there is a dearth of specialist teachers especially those trained to attend to the persons with special needs in Nigeria. 2) The challenge of non – availability of assisted technology. This refers to teaching and learning devices made for persons with special needs to facilitate their quality learning. Examples of such technologies include the talking calculator, Braille embosser, hearing aids, laptop computers, voice synthesizers among others.
There is lack of these equipment and writing materials. In the 21st century, Nigeria is yet to embrace recent assisted technology devices and deploy same in teaching persons with special needs. This is less than desirable. 3) Inability to identify persons with special needs early enough, if possible before they enter school. 4) Negative attitude or categorization by members f the public towards persons with special needs. 5) Lack of proper funding to procure equipment and train specialists in special needs education. There is no gainsaying that funds are pivotal to any educational venture, more so with special needs education which is expensive and equipment driven.
Justifying the imperative of funds to special needs education, Than (2006) declared that money is required to empower desired manpower, procure and maintain infrastructural facilities, instructional materials and to cope with emergencies arising from expansion in special needs education 6) The challenge of large classes. This is characteristic of public schools where the population far exceeds the number allowed by law. Conclusion Quality education is the right of every citizen of the world, Nigeria inclusive and key to transforming the lives of individuals. Without quality education, persons with special needs are denied the opportunity to develop their full potential. This paper has been able to identify and define persons with special needs and they have been categorized. Several methods have been enumerated for the provision Of quality education for persons with special needs.
Unfortunately, lack of manpower, non-availability of assisted genealogy, inability to identify persons with special needs early enough, categorization by members of the public and lack of proper funding by government are challenges which hamper access to quality education for persons with special needs in Nigeria. However, all hope is not lost if the under listed recommendations and more are considered as they are pre- requisites for achieving Education for All (EVA). Recommendations 1 . There is need to train more qualified teachers as special educators so as to be able to provide quality education and cater for the needs of persons with special needs. 2. Assisted technology gadgets should be provided for persons with special needs to facilitate access to quality education. 3. There is need for the early identification and intervention programmer for infants and pre-school age; and the development of extensive family support services. 4.
Public enlightenment of members of the public so as to change their negative attitude towards persons with special needs. 5. There is need for proper funding by government for special needs education. 6. All programmer designed to cater for the needs of the special person should constantly be monitored and evaluated.