From sceptic to advocate: a personal reflection on the benefits of inclusive education training, Cameroon
Louis is a French and English language secondary-level teacher in the North West Region of Cameroon who has been teaching for over six years. Here he shares his experiences of learning about and using inclusive education techniques. He highlights the challenges and the way forward, to raise awareness and encourage others who are still sceptical of the implementation of inclusive education.
An inclusive education workshop was organised by the SEEPD Program (Socio Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities) of the CBCHB (Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board) in 2011. I unwillingly attended as I didn’t understand inclusive education. I had seen people with disabilities, but my attitude was usually that of indifference and pity; I would just shy away from them.
However, presentations by Mrs. Bridget Fobuzie and Mr. Ezekiel Benuh, on what inclusive education is and on disability/equality respectively, revamped my thoughts and I became determined to discover more. I participated in two intensive courses organised by the SEEPD Program. I found these workshops enriching and became an ambassador for inclusive education in a context where few people understand the concept.
I realised how much I have missed over the years and the number of students who have left my classes having learned little or nothing. This posed a challenge and I began to research the practice of inclusive education internationally and considered possible adaptations for the Cameroonian classroom.
Over the past two years my classroom practice has greatly improved. I now know that inclusive education is not only for persons with disabilities but it helps to make knowledge and learning accessible to all. My determination is therefore to forge ahead, not only from a general perspective but to focus on specific impairments and related classroom accommodations.
Challenges and the way forward
Implementing inclusive education in a context where up to 75% of the staff is ignorant of its practice has not been a bed of roses.
Some of the challenges I have faced include:
- Attitudes: colleagues who have not received training in inclusive education tend to be unsure about it.
- Policy: since Cameroon has not yet adopted inclusive education as a policy it is often challenging to convince administrators of the value of inclusion-related matters.
- Infrastructure: basic necessities are lacking for all learners; e.g. ramps, play grounds, teaching / learning materials, etc.
- The curriculum: it is examination-oriented, and successful teaching is evaluated on the bases of completing the full programme.
We may not need a magic wand to overcome these challenges. Attitudes and policy cannot change overnight. So we try on a daily bases to explain to and show colleagues the benefits of inclusive education for all learners. If teachers start teaching inclusively, policy will surely follow and therefore improvements in infrastructure and teacher training methods.
The annual SEEPD Program training courses received by teachers are a laudable initiative in raising awareness. We encourage the programme and its partners (CBM, USAID, etc) to continue. In my opinion the SEEPD Program is one of the best ways of implementing inclusive education in Cameroon.
I believe the training I received is already yielding fruit. We do not regard challenges as a stumbling block but as opportunities to make progress. Not only have many of my colleagues been convinced of the value of inclusive education, but many more are anxious to be trained. I believe this is testimony that training more teachers is the answer.
Louis Mbibeh, c/o The SEEPD Program
Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services Nkwen, Bamenda, North West Region, Cameroon