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Moorosi & Sebatane

 

 

INTEGRATION OF CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS INTO REGULAR SCHOOLS FOR ENHANCING THEIR QUALITY OF LIFE IN THE CLASSROOM.

‘Mabaphuthi Moorosi & Edith M. Sebatane

INTRODUCTION

Historical Background

Lesotho lies in Southern Africa between 20 S and 31S latitudes and 27 E and 30E longitudes. It is land-locked by the Republic of South Africa. The country covers an area of about 30,000 sq.km. Three quarters () of the country is mountainous. These mountains range from North-East to the South of the country and the highest mountain peak is about 3,482 metres above sea-level. The foothills, valleys and lowlands form one quarter () of the country. The steep country is regularly cut by fast running rivers, many of which form the valleys of the country. Lesotho’s population is now around 1.9 million people.

To ease general administration of this mountainous country, it is divided into ten districts, each with an administrative town. In each of these ten districts there is an Education Office. The Ministry of Education (1992:104-105) informs that each education office has an education officer with one or two assistants. These are charged, among other duties, with the inspection of primary schools. To ease inspection in the primary schools the Education Officers are assisted by District Resource Teachers (DRT’s). Mathot (1990: iii) defines DRT’s as part of the inspectorate seconded to districts and having a specific task of providing "school-based inservice to all primary school teachers on a rational basis."

The Lesotho Official Year book (1996: 133-135) informs that there are 1,234 primary schools in Lesotho with most located in the lowlands. Furthermore, in 1994 approximately 366,935 pupils were enrolled in Lesotho primary schools. Additionally, it is explained that "education in Lesotho is characterised by a partnership between the government and the churches. The churches operate over 90% of primary schools in the country.

UNICEF (1994: 103-110) states basic education for all as the goal for education policy in Lesotho. Among its broad goals, one is to "provide primary education for all Basotho." This policy does not exclude children with disabilities. It is clearly shown that the policy of the Ministry of Education (MoE), is the "integration of special needs children into ordinary schools and to equip teachers to teach them."

In line with the above policy, the Lesotho Official Year Book (1996: 133) states that the objective of the education system should be the attainment of universal basic education so that everyone will have the opportunity to develop competencies necessary for personal growth and for social life.

In essence, the Lesotho education policy stipulates that primary education should be offered to everyone and completed by everyone, despite any disabilities a person may have.

To fulfil the above policy concerning children with disabilities, the MOE has established the Special Education Unit. The personnel in this unit is to help teachers in the schools since they are ill-equipped with skills to handle children with disabilities.

Mariga and Phachaka (1993: 1) show that the training of teachers was embarked upon with teachers selected from ten pilot primary schools. The schools were selected from eight of the ten districts in the country. The purpose was to attain good representation of both districts and schools in Lesotho, hence all districts with the exception of Thaba-Tseka and Qacha’s Nek were chosen. The authors above, further explain that the intensive course given to the teachers, was intended to help them understand disability needs. It was also to equip them with skills to assist children with disabilities in their education. MoE (1992: 169-170) indicates that integration of children with disabilities into the mainstream is "a way the needs of the majority of disabled children can be met in the best and most cost-effective way." It is hoped that the integration will not only benefit these children academically but also socially, especially in self-image. Likewise, the non-disabled children will understand more about children with disability. The integration is to improve the quality of life of children with disabilities academically and socially.

Statement of the Problem

The problem under investigation is whether or not the training of teachers in the ten pilot primary schools in special education is enhancing the quality of life of children with special needs both academically and socially.

Like everybody else, the disabled persons must enjoy fundamental human rights and freedoms. One of these rights is the right to education. However, throughout decades worldwide, these people had generally not been accorded this right hence Lesotho was no exception. Prior to the proclamation of the Lesotho government’s policy on special education, experience has shown that in Lesotho schools, those children with special needs were treated with pity hence not given a chance to grow and fulfil themselves as worthy human beings, both socially and academically. Such approach to children with special needs, has meant that these children developed dependence in their environment rather than independence. It is therefore contended in this study that, such dependence has had a negative impact on the social and academic life of these children. It is this concern which has therefore prompted the researchers to find out whether or not the training of teachers in special education (in line with the MoE’s policy on Special Education) is bringing a positive improvement in the quality of life of children with special needs, socially and academically.

Research Questions

The major assumption underlying the study is that, since the training of primary teachers in the ten pilot primary schools in Special Education, there is some improvement in the quality of lives of children with disabilities, socially and academically. On the basis of that, the study poses the following research questions.

1. Are children with disabilities able to join in the regular classroom lessons?

2. Are there any noticeable academic and social strengths in children with disabilities?

3. Do teachers trained in Special Education successfully implement the teaching methods they were trained to use for children with special needs?

Purpose of the Study

The main objective of the study is to investigate whether or not the social and academic lives of children with special needs is improving, since the Special Education Unit embarked on training primary school teachers in special education. To achieve this objective, the study sets out to:

- To find out if teachers teaching children with special needs recognised any social and academic strengths in these children even before attending training in Special Education.

- To investigate whether or not before receiving training is special education, teachers took any extra effort to assist children with special needs in their academic work.

- To find out the "new" teaching methods which are applied specially to teaching children with special needs.

- To find out any academic and social strengths children with disabilities have, since being handled by teachers trained in special education.

Significance of the Study

It is hoped that the results of the study would benefit the Special Education Unit personnel, the primary school teachers and all people who are stakeholders in the fulfilment of the needs of children with disabilities. The Special Education personnel would benefit by being able to develop more concrete inservice training for the primary school teacher; while the teachers would know the specific areas in which they need further training and assistance in skills for dealing with children with special needs. In general, the study will be a needs assessment for all those involved in the integration of children with special needs in the mainstream.

Scope of the Study

The study focuses on the improvement in the social and academic lives of children with special needs hence the enhancement of the quality of lives of these children in the schools. The main focus in the study is therefore on how far the training of teachers in the ten pilot primary schools has had a positive impact in the social and academic lives of children with special needs in the concerned schools.

Operational Definition of Terms

According to this study, integration means the process of bringing children with disabilities and special needs into the ordinary schools, so that they mix and learn together with other normal children, under the same environment.

Children with special needs and children with disabilities are two concepts considered to share the same meaning in this study. They refer to those children who either have physical disabilities or educational learning problems, or a combination of both. Such children are usually not considered as normal because of the handicaps they suffer and which make them different from other "normal" persons in some respects.

In this study, Special Education is defined according to Mariga and Phachaka (1993), as education provided to children with special needs. Such children include those with learning difficulties, physical or sensory impairments and "those whose behaviour cannot be readily contained in regular schools. Thus, such children need special educational provision over and above what regular schools offer," hence what Special Education is.

Special Education personnel means, for purposes of this study, the people employed and working in the Special Education Unit of the Ministry of Education in Lesotho.

Organisation of the Study

The study is organised into five chapters. Chapter I is an introduction of the study. It gives the historical background of the study and then states the problem under investigation. Chapter II is the review of related literature. The literature is reviewed in two parts. Part one reviews Special Education as a broad area, while part two takes a look at Special Education in Lesotho. Chapter III outlines the methodology used to carry out the study. Chapter IV present data analysis, interpretation and discussion of the findings. The last chapter, chapter V is the conclusions and recommendations. Following the chapters is the bibliography and appendices.

REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

Background to Special Education

Blishmen (1969) indicate that in Britain, Special Education is understood to be "education adapted to the needs of pupils who are handicapped by a disability of body or mind." Reber (1985), still in line with Blishmen, sees Special Education as "the area within the field of education psychology which is concerned with a special child." He defines a special child as one with emotional, social, physical, or mental problems. Correspondingly, Hallahan and Kauffman (1991:8) explain special education as "a specially designed instruction that meets the unusual needs of an exceptional child" aiming to promote the abilities of children with disabilities.

In essence, Special Education is education provided for all who need special treatment while they are educated. These special people may be gifted or have a mental or physical disorder.

Blishmen (1960) shows that the history of special education goes as far back as the eighteenth century. It was run by private enterprise and charitable organizations. It provided for all children in accordance with their age, ability and aptitude. Hallahan and Kauffman (1991:18) cite Winzer and concur with Blishmen that exceptional children have always existed since human life, but special services to address the needs of these children were not there. They only came into being after the French and American revolution.

Bonati & Hawes (1992:82) point out that disability may occur at birth. A baby may be born deaf, blind, physically or mentally disabled because of improper development before birth. After birth, a child can be disabled because of diseases. Diseases like polio, measles and leprosy can cause disabilities. At times accidents cause disabilities, fire and road accidents, tree climbing can cause life disabilities. Over and above, if children do not get the right kind of food, they may be blind or mentally retarded.

Blishmen (1969) informs that in Britain, children over the age of two were examined with a view of deciding whether or not they are in need of special education. In some cases, especially the blind, the deaf and physically handicapped children, education began before they reached compulsory school age. Hallaham and Kauffman (1991:18) writes that in the eighteenth century, teaching children with sensory impairment, the idiotic and the insane, began. Before the revolution, society protected people with disabilities in protection asylums against communities in which they could not fit with dignity. Gradually, as political reform including democracy, individual freedom and human rights preponderated the world, the community leaders including politicians strived toward putting back human dignity to people with disability.

Hallahan and Kauffman in the quoted work, indicate that special education was based on Psychology, Sociology and the mental tests that were developed by psychologists. These tests helped to focus on children with special needs. Surveying the way in which exceptional children’s families and communities responded to them, was done by social workers. With developments in education which included "compulsory school attendance law", special education was necessary. Special training programmes offered training in quick, normal and delayed developments, and technical knowledge in various disabilities. However, this does not suggest that teachers of children with disabilities should be otologists (specialists in ear and its diseases), andiologists (specialists in the science of hearing) and many other related professions. But these teachers are required to be special educators prepared to teach learners with special disabilities. Being a special educator, as Hallahan & Kauffaman (1991:20) explain, calls for "working with other professionals and contributing to an interdisciplinary effort to help the child and the people the child lives with."

The children with disabilities were, in many countries gradually integrated into regular schools. Farrell (1992:24) gives an example of a steady integration of slow learners from Grenfell school to Livingstone school. Grenfell was a school for pupils with moderate learning. It had a reputation of success, classes and teachers that provided a "secure and protected environment" for its slow learners. Livingstone was a comprehensive school with a reputation of a caring school referred to, by local people, as a "non-academic institution." The staff and the pupils from Grenfell had to be integrated into Livingstone. Apart from these two, there were other comprehensive schools in the area.

The integration took place in stages. First, two classes from Grenfell joined Livingstone each with its support teacher. In each of the subsequent years pupils who were to be sent to Grenfell were redirected to Livingstone. Teachers from Grenfell were deployed in a Local Area Learning Difficulties Services (LALDS) based in Livingstone school and having its own management structure. The staff from LALDS provided support to the local schools.

By the time Grenfell was closed, the integration of pupils with slow learning disabilities was obvious. The pupils did not have the problem of mixing since they came from the same area. However, the teachers had some problems. By the time Grenfell was closed, some teachers in Livingstone had children with slow learning disabilities in their classrooms. The teaching problems became obvious. They claimed that these children caused disciplinary problems. The behaviour threatened the teachers’ status.

To solve the unmanageable situation, support teachers were attached to these classes. However, the class teachers did not acknowledge. Also the fact that the school and the support services were run separately was a problem. Children with special needs still reacted with sullen silence, aggression, and violence. They even ran out of class.

Farrell (1992: 132-134) shows that his findings disclosed that children with learning difficulties are accustomed to failure and have no idea of self-esteem. They need to be reassured that they have value. They should not equalize academic performance to performance as persons. At times the children without learning disabilities may oppose the improvement shown by children with disabilities. This many cause frustration for the teacher and the children with disabilities.

Blishmen (1969) shows that the nature of special education treatment varies according to the handicap. However, its aim is to meet the individual’s needs. Special methods of teaching should be used. Sometimes physical care, individual therapy and psychological treatment are needed.

Jeffree, McConkey and Hewson (1977: 57-59) and Farrell (1992: 136-139) suggest four ways of meeting the needs of pupils with disabilities. First, they recommend building a good self- image. Teachers should have strategies for working with low-esteem learners. They should not allow their learners to believe in failing but should give them a way out. This encourages the learners because they know that their teacher cannot allow them to fail.

Second, the stress of children with disabilities should be minimized. For instance, slow learners may have the inability to keep up with other pupils. The link between academic performance and their worth as persons should be broken. The support teacher, who through professional practices, should build a closer relationship with these pupils and be able to criticize any inappropriate behaviour that may hinder academic performance.

Third, groupings are suggested. Groups should be formed in a manner that "playground problems" should not spill over into the classroom. These groups will help in that any problem will be contained in a small group without interrupting the whole class. These groups should be in different areas in the classroom.

Fourth, teachers should choose appropriate teaching styles. The styles should include democracy whereby learners have liberty to use their learning styles too. If the class teacher works with a support teacher, team-teaching strategies can be used.

In summary, persons with disabilities have always existed. Disabilities occur even before a child is born. Some disabilities are caused by natural hazards like accidents. Much is done by society to intergrate these people into the mainstream so that they should acquire (survival) life skills and academic improvement.

Lesotho, like the Livingstone and Grenfell case, is gradually training teachers in Lesotho primary schools in skills in teaching and handling children with disabilities. In their schools, these teachers will provide support services to other teachers who have not undergone training. These support teachers will also build a closer relationship among school staff, between the staff and the children, and among the children.

Special Education in Lesotho

The intergration of children with disabilities into the regular school system in Lesotho, is a recent phenomenonn. Before this, children with special needs were catered for by some government bodies, private organisations and some non-governmental organisations (NGO’s). These organisations mostly set up residential centres that catered for the disabled persons’ special needs. As documented by Phachaka and Mariga (1993), "approximately four hundred children and youth receiving care in a dozen special schools were supported by donor agencies and, only seventy perecent (70%) of these children were provided with special education." As argued further, such children were placed in centres for the disabled, away from their families and friends. Additionally, the Ministry of Education (MOE, 1989) extends this matter further saying, this residential type of education created a "handicapped sub-culture." This meant eventually these children regarded themselves as different from other "normal" people, thus had to accept being treated with pity perhaps. This idea of segregation and not intergration, is carried further by Gross (1996), that is not a necessary condition for learning.

Nevertheless, the negative perception of themselves (the disabled) is against the philosophy of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Disabled Persons that; they have a right to live with their families, a right to medical and social rehabilitation, counselling... (MoE, 1989). However then, the Lesotho government had no clear policy regarding Special Education. This condition resulted in most teachers who are working with these children in the residential centres and the adjoining schools, having very little or no training whatsoever in special education. This observation is endorsed further by Gill (ed) (1994: 110) that the lack of any component on the special needs of children with disabilities in the pre- and in-service teacher traning curriculum in Lesotho, means that the teachers are very ill-equipped to respond to the individual needs of disabled children.

However, matters have since taken a different turn. In 1981, the Education Policy Guidelines expressed the views and aspirations of the Basotho nation regarding education in the country. Among their aspirations, the nation expressed the need to provide basic education for living to every Mosotho child and that, "children with special needs should be given appropriate education." In taking up this challenge, the Special Education Task Force (1981) through the Special Education Unit, took up the responsibility to help develop each child with special needs to the extent of his abilities, such that the child is allowed to complete a 7 - year primary education course that will have trained him for an occupation or participation in non-formal education related to his needs and interests. The Special Education Unit was then faced with the task to provide in-service training for primary school teachers. The need to establish the Unit had emanated from the Lesotho national policy of Education for All and integration of children with disabilities into regular schools (Mariga and Phachaka, 1993). The training then started with ten pilot school primary teachers and since then, has been continuing with other teachers countrywide. Prior to such training, the responsibility for meeting the special educational needs of the disabled persons, rested heavily on the ordinary classroom teachers not trained in special education. Such teachers, according to Gross (1996) would then face problems such as lack of confidence in teaching children with special needs; lack of knowledge in integrating them into the ordinary classroom life and other related problems.

The first in-service workshop for teachers of children with special needs in Lesotho, was carried out for the pilot schools and was held in June 1993. Its main objective was, as documented by Mariga and Phachaka (1993: 1),

to help teachers understand disability needs so that they can be able to use the special education draft materials during the piloting period. In addition, it was..... to help teacher who have to cope with children with special needs.

Training teachers and exposing them to special education teaching methods and techniques, augers well for enhancing the quality of life of children with special needs attending regular schools. Through engaging in both academic and social activities together, the disabled children would feel accepted hence develop confidence and esteem. The above was one of the intentions of the Special Education Unit when undertaking this workshop. Furthermore, it is believed that it is only when teachers learn, understand and are aware of the physical, emotional, intellectual and social growth of children with special needs, that they can be in a better position to provide for the children’s needs. Therefore, it is contended that to enable teachers to master this task, they need to acquire those teaching techniques that will enable them to do their work competently and efficiently.

METHODOLOGY

In this survey study questionnaires were used to get the views of the teachers trained through workshops in the teaching of children with disabilities. Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected.

Out of ten (10) pilot schools, a convenience and purposive sample of five (5) schools was made (Ary, Jacobs and Razavieh 1990: 177). All the teachers in these schools were taken as subjects for the study. This brought the population to thirty-six (36). The actual responses were only eighteen (18).

Statistical analysis and insights into data were made. Tabulations consisting of frequencies and percentages were made on close-ended questions. Each table was discussed, notable characters pointed out. Different answers on each open-ended question were noted. The same answers were categorized together. The categories were arranged in numbers. Then a descriptive analysis of the summarized categories was made interwoven with real responses from the subjects. Findings were related to the research questions and the reviewed literature followed by comments for improving the quality of life of children with disabilities.

DISCUSSIONS AND SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

The major concern of the study was to find out from the teachers perspective if there is improvement in the quality of the children with disabilities in the classroom. Seventeen of the respondents were females and one was a male teacher. All of them held certificates in teaching. The classes they taught ranged from standard one to seven. The study answered the following three research questions.

1. Are the children with disabilities able to join in regular classroom lessons?

There is a wide spread of children with disabilities from Class 1 to Class 7. The findings show that children with disabilities are integrated in the everyday regular classroom life. Through the training they received, most of the respondents have indicated they are able to deal with various disabilities in their classrooms, hence are in a better position to assist the children to learn. It is further revealed that in the schools studied, the teachers deal with a wide variety of disabilities and that children with special needs special through the seven primary schools. Additionally, it seems the concerned primary schools have taken well to the idea of integration of children with special needs at all levels of the school system.

2. Are there any noticeable academic strengths in children with disabilities?

The findings show that before training, a large percentage of the respondents never noticed academic and social strengths in children with special needs. However, after training they noticed such strengths.

Academically, children with special needs perform well, particularly when teachers have identified their problems and special needs and therefore give them the right treatment.

Socially, these children interact with their peers. As shown in the literature reviewed, the children come from the same living places, they play and work together. Likewise, in class they are able to work with their classmates.

In line with the above viewpoint, in Mariga and Phachaka (1993: 21), it is stated that if teachers are unaware of the physical, emotional, intellectual and social growth of children, then they will not be able to cater for the children’s needs. Consequently, possessing such knowledge would give the teacher "a better chance of providing good and proper care for children with learning disabilities in class."

According to data presented, the weaknesses observed in the children with disabilities seem to be more inclined to the type of disability the child suffers. The visually impaired progress slowly because they cannot see and read anything the ordinary children deal with and written in normal writing.

From the responses, it seems not all children with special needs are hopeless. Some good points about them could be used by teachers to assist the children to enjoy both their academic and social lives. After all, authors such as Bonati and Hawes (eds) (1992) and Gross (1996) are in agreement that having a disability of some sort does not mean a person is totally non-functional, but that there are other areas in his life where he is good like any ordinary person.

3. Do teachers trained in Special Education successfully implement the teaching methods they were trained to use for children with special needs?

The data discloses that teachers who handle children with special needs, require solid and intensive training to allow them to be able to deal with wide variety of disabilities they come across in the children they teach. The respondents show that they use the following methods for the following disabilities.

Disability

Teaching Methods

-  Hearing Impairment

-  Mental Retardation

-  Slow Learners

-  Visual Impairment and Albino

-  Epilepsy

-  Physical Disability

-   Lip reading, use of prescribed manual.

-  Discussion groups, experiment methods, look-and-say method.

-  Demonstration, repetition, discovery, look-and-say, grouping.

-  Phonic method, pair-work, prescribed manual.

-  Peer grouping.

-  Peer grouping, peer-teaching, discussion, demonstration.

To add to the question of training, Mariga and Phachaka (1996) point out that as a result of the in-service training workshops they have held for teachers in the pilot schools, "teachers have developed confidence, knowledge and skills which will help them to deal children with different needs." It is such training therefore, which is necessary to make teachers have a positive impact on the children they teach.

It could be concluded then that teachers in the pilot schools deal with a wide variety of disabilities; and that children with special needs spread through the seven primary classes. Additionally, it seems the concerned primary schools have taken well to the idea of integration of children with special needs at all levels of the school system.

GENERAL COMMENTS

Generally, the teachers revealed that there was no problem in working with various disabilities in children. They were equipped with hints for dealing with every different disability. They were taught to base themselves on major teaching objectives. Acceptance of children with disability was the major concern of their training. These children were seen to be improving in academic and social life. The attitudes of these children, and those of children without disabilities, and of the teachers, were changing positively towards one another. It can therefore be generalized that the academic and social life of children with disabilities in the pilot schools studied was improving in the classrooms.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The problems under investigation was whether the integration of children with special needs into regular schools in the pilot schools was improving their academic and social lives in the classrooms. To answer the question above, research questions were posed and these were answered by the data collected.

On the basis of the results obtained, this study concludes that there is an improvement in the academic and social lives of children with disabilities. The teachers indicated they noticed positive changes in the children and that their academic performance was also improving. Socially, the children with special needs and those without disabilities were intergrating well, hence it was easy for them to play and learn together. Finally, it was made clear by the teachers that in order for them to be more competent in dealing with children with special needs, there was need for solid and further intensive training which would allow them do their work effectively.

Based on the findings in the study, the following recommendations are made.

First, the pilot teachers who were trained intensively before implementation of integration, should continue to receive further in-service training; so that they would eventually become specialists in teaching children with disabilities. This condition could result in them being Resource persons who would assist to in-service other teachers country-wide.

Second, since the National Teacher Training College (NTTC) has included Special Education in its curriculum, it should have staff representation in the in-service workshops run by the Special Education Unit. This condition would give NTTC a more practical approach in the teaching of its teacher trainees in special education.

REFERENCES

Blishmen, E (Ed) (1969). Blond’s encyclopaedia of education London: Blond Educational Ltd.

Bonati, G. & Hawes, H. (Eds) 1992). Child-to-Child: a resource book. London: Child-to-Child Trust.

Farrell, T. (1992). Meeting individual needs in the classroom in a comprehensive school.  In Villiamy, G & Webb, R (Eds). Teachers researcher and special educational needs. London: David Fulton Publishers.

Gross, J. (1996). Special Education Needs in the Primary School. Second Edition.  Buckingham: Open University.

Hallahan, D.P. & Kauffman, J.M. (1991). Exceptional children: introduction to special education (5th edition) New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc.

Jeffree, D.M., McConkey, R. & Hewson, S. (1977). Teaching the handicapped child.  London: Sourvenir Press (E & A) Ltd.

Mariga L. & Phachaka L. (1996). Background History of Intergrated Education in Lesotho. (Unpublished study). Ministry of Education. Lesotho.

Mariga L. & Phachaka L. (1993). The Report on Special Educaiton In-service Teacher Training Workshop. Morija. Lesotho.

Morris,R.J. & Blatt, B. (Eds) (1986). Special education: research and trends. New York: Perfamon Press.

Reber, A.S. (1985). Dictionary of Psychology. London: Viking: Penguin Inc.

Vulliamy, G. & Webb, R. (Eds) (1992). Teacher researcher and special educational needs. London: David Fulton Publishers.

 

 

        

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