SOME parents have asked the National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) to highlight the small kindness that makes their children with a disability to succeed in inclusive education and the painful obstacles that others put in their way.
To do this, we have chosen a real-life story of a child who struggles through an education system that marginalises children on the basis of their disabilities.
Daniel entered Year One last year. He had some problems with speech and saw one of us when he was two years old.
Over the years he received much support in the pre-school stage from speech and language therapists, kindergarten teachers and his family.
As a result his abilities are almost on par with his peers.
Unfortunately, he is also very shy and requires prompting and proactive support for social integration.
Those who do not know him might make the mistake of thinking he is not smart.
When he entered Year One, we wrote a letter to the school explaining his problems and supporting his entry into mainstream education.
His class teacher was a gem. She discussed his needs with the schools’ senior assistant and they arranged for him to sit in the front and encouraged other students to support him socially.
He did very well and in both the first and second term examinations scoring 75%-80% for most subjects.
Unfortunately, the headmaster came to know about this boy. He was upset why this boy was given “preferential” treatment and reprimanded both the class teacher and the senior assistant.
He was concerned that the boy would bring down the performance of the school, his KPIs (key performance indicators) and the school image.
He called the parents and demanded that they register Daniel as OKU (disabled person) and send him for the special education class instead.
His mother came to see us in tears. We of course refused to register him as a disabled. Yes, he has a mild disability, but one that can be easily overcome by a little kindness and support.
A formal letter to the headmaster to ask for support only made things worse.
The headmaster insisted Daniel be placed at the back of the class, against the back wall of the classroom separated from all the other children.
The senior assistant was told not to interfere and the class teacher warned that she is under observation.
Naturally Daniel did poorly. His final year results dropped to between 40%-50%. He is last in class and the headmaster is now vindicated.
The reality of this child’s situation is repeated in many classrooms in Malaysia. There is no disabled child here, there is a disabled headmaster and a disabled education system.
We can draft education blueprints and memorandums until we are blue in the face, but unless there is basic compassion at all levels of society and within the education system we can forget about ever being a developed nation.
DATUK DR AMAR-SINGH HSS and DR WOAN YIING WONG National Early Childhood Intervention Council The STAR Online Home News Letters to the Editors 17/01/2014