This article has been published in Enabling Education 5
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Overcoming Resource Barriers

– an EENET Symposium at ISEC

A symposium at an academic conference usually consists of a series of formal presentations with a plenary discussion led by an appointed chairperson. Great efforts had been made to make ISEC a more inclusive experience so we decided to use participatory methods to ensure that the symposium was lively, clear and accessible. The content was prepared collaboratively by a small group of participants who had met for the first time at the pre-congress Presentation Skills workshop. It was a very last-minute, but an extremely dynamic and inclusive process. Using role-play we highlighted ways in which the difficulties caused by limited resources have been overcome in Lesotho, Zambia, Uganda and Nepal.

“The South doesn’t have greater problems, just different needs.”
Indumathi Rao


We are all so familiar with the excuses for not introducing more inclusive practices in education. As a planning group we began with a brainstorm to help us understand and analyse the barriers.

We then divided the excuses into 3 categories: people; money and material resources; and information. We realised that most of the excuses, or barriers, fitted into the people category as they were about negative attitudes – regardless of the level of resourcing.

We decided to start the symposium with a brainstorm. This enabled participants to air their own views about resource barriers and engaged them in a practical activity of writing their barriers on pieces of A4 paper. They constructed a wall with their barriers, in answer to the question, “What are the barriers to inclusion for all?” This provided an instant visual aid for the session. It also demonstrated the fact that attitudinal barriers were a bigger issue than resource barriers.


Ninety minutes is a long time for participants to sit and listen. In order to make the session livelier we used role-play. Each role player was able to speak from the heart of their own experience of overcoming apparently insurmountable barriers.

Participants were asked to consider the following dialogue when watching the role-play:

“We don’t have the resources for inclusion!” “Excuse me, but you have a fixed idea about inclusion, which gives you a fixed idea about resources…If you have a flexible idea about inclusion, you can have a more flexible attitude to resources!”

We can’t do IE because:
  • Attitudes are negative – “Until attitudes change…”;
  • Disabled children aren’t ready (eg not toilet trained);
  • It will affect the other children (contagious);
  • No capacity to learn;
  • Parents’ fear of rejection;
  • Teachers are trained in special education – “I’ll lose my job”;
  • Our people aren’t literate;
  • We’ve got other priorities;
  • Our system’s too rigid;
  • Buildings are not accessible;
  • No trained personnel.

Negative attitudes lead people to say:

“We don’t have ….. therefore we can’t do….”

This is especially true in the richer countries of the North where the emphasis is on ‘having’ rather than ‘being’.

However we challenge this by saying:

“We are….therefore we do”.

My name is Deepa Jain. I am a co-ordinator of an inclusive programme in Delhi, India. I’d like to ask you a few questions about inclusion.

Firstly, how can I teach your child when I haven’t had any training?

My name is Palesa Mphohle and I come from Lesotho. I am a parent of a child with mental disability and I am the co-ordinator of the Lesotho Society of Mentally Handicapped Persons (LSMHP) which is a national organisation of parents founded in 1992.

I also did not have any special training to be a parent of a disabled child, but by raising my child and exchanging experiences with other parents, I have realised that I have a lot of knowledge about my child. I can help you to teach my child. In Lesotho parents work with the Ministry of Education’s inclusive education programme. Problem-based learning in schools is better than any ‘special’ training.

Deepa: Why don’t you send your child to a special school?

Palesa: It is a basic human right that every child should have access to education. My child has been born into our community with his brothers and sisters and should be allowed to go to his neighbourhood school with them. The children don’t discriminate. In Lesotho we have found that non-disabled children also benefit from having disabled children in their school. They learn that we are all different and that we must care for one another. These children are our future policy makers. How can they implement policies on inclusion if they have not had any experience of it in their own lives?

My name is John Ndiraba Kiyaga and I am from Uganda. I am the director of Action to Positive Change on People with Disabilities (APCPD) and we run a small school on the outskirts of the capital, Kampala.

When I was a child my mother wanted me to go to a special school far away from my home because she thought that I would get a better education there. I didn’t want to go and I persuaded her to let me go to my local school. I worked hard at school and got top grades in all the subjects. Everyone knows me in my community and accepts me for who I am.

Deepa: I think we need to build a special unit attached to the local school.

My name is Paul Mumba. I am a teacher from Zambia. In my experience building a special unit is still segregation because the children are expected to learn separately. When our unit opened they sent us a special teacher. He said he was only allowed to teach 5 children with learning difficulties! The children called him ‘Teacher of the Fools’.

Deepa: OK, so we agree about inclusion, but I’ve got 100 children in my class. The disabled child can’t keep up and I’ve got no resources. What can I do?

Palesa: When teachers complain about the size of their class, I tell them that they should work out ways of reducing its size without excluding my child. What difference will it make if they have one less? Why should it be my child that misses out just because the class size is too big. That is the school’s problem, not my child’s problem.

My name is Krishna Lamichanne and I am from Nepal. I work as a community based rehabilitation worker in a rural area far from the capital city. We have found that the best thing to do when a disabled child has a problem is to get everybody together to have a meeting. We invite the child, their parents and the teachers to discuss the problem and we work out ways to overcome it.

Deepa: But surely we don’t have all the answers in our own community?

Palesa: There are lots of useful international documents that can help us in our communities. These are the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the UN Standard Rules and the Salamanca Statement. We need to know about these international instruments because they are valuable campaigning tools.

John: We didn’t want to be dependent on external funders when we built our school. We had seen so many projects collapse after the donors had left, so instead we identified locally available resources. We recruited teachers who lived in the community and we set up a mobility aids workshop to provide income for the school. We worked hard to convince the parents that they should send their disabled children to school.

Deepa: Thank you for sharing your experiences. They are very encouraging.

“One of EENET’s key messages is that some of the most innovative practice in IE is in the countries of the South and these voices need to be heard.”