Inclusion through collaboration in Lesotho
Palesa Mphohle and Hilda Paneng are parents of mentally handicapped children and founder members of the Lesotho Society of Mentally Handicapped Persons (LSMHP).
In Lesotho primary school classes there is an average ratio of 52 pupils to one teacher. Children have to walk up to 10kms to get to school and not all children have access to formal education. Despite these difficulties, the Ministry of Education’s Special Education Unit initiated an exciting programme in 1993 to equip primary school teachers with the necessary skills to teach children with a variety of special needs, many of whom were already in their classes but were not receiving any assistance.
In this article Palesa and Hilda highlight some of the benefits they have gained from their close collaboration with the Ministry’s Inclusive Education Programme.
Parents have become more aware of their children’s needs. They now have more realistic expectations about their children. Parents are able to assist and advise teachers how to cope with their children at school and can now answer teachers’ questions regarding the education of their children. They feel that they are equal partners with teachers and that they should join hands and work for the success of inclusive education.
The knowledge the parents gain from attending the training workshops facilitated by the Special Education Unit boost their confidence and this contributes to their empowerment. They no longer feel inferior in front of professionals, especially teachers. They are invited to give talks and to share their experiences during teachers’ seminars.
When the parent trainers, or resource parents, have gained some ideas about how to implement Inclusive Education (IE), they go out and establish friendships with teachers in their own areas. They attend the training workshops with these teachers. Later the teachers can assist the parents with the dissemination of information on the rights of disabled children to be included in the school system. This approach makes the expansion of IE easier and faster, since the parents are able to reach all the schools in their areas, even where the special education has not yet reached.
Palesa Mphohle and Hilda Paneng can be contacted at: LSMHP, Box 7699, Maseru 100, Lesotho