NATIONAL Action for Quality Education in Zambia (NAQEZ) executive director Aaron Chansa says there is need for more investment in the country’s education infrastructure to make it more accommodative of learners with special needs.

And Chansa says government should construct more colleges to train teachers in special education and ensure that there is specialisation among teachers to make education for learners with special needs a lot easier.

The latest Auditor General’s report on the Provision of Special Education in Zambia revealed that the current school infrastructure in most schools is not accommodative of learners with special needs, and that the teachers handling such learners were not well specialised.

Commenting on these revelations in an interview, Chansa said that education in Zambia could only be inclusive if government was mindful of the needs of learners who were differently-abled.

“We haven’t invested much in the area of special education, and infrastructure also is not so good. Although we have this concept of inclusive education, you will discover that some of the disabilities cannot be able to be handled in mainstream schools. So, we need specific schools for special education. Then the other aspect is the issue of equipment: you know, when you look at the current schools for special education we have as a country, most of them are lacking so much equipment like wheelchairs. Even the enabling infrastructure in most schools, it’s not there. Most of the schools were built without the consideration of disabled people. It’s just as if government has not paid attention to special education and the learners with special education needs,” Chansa said.

Chansa called on government to consider constructing more colleges for special education training so that children with special education needs could be taught by specialised teachers.

“We don’t have enough teachers specifically trained to handle learners with special education needs and even those that are trained as special education teachers, most of them are not teaching this subject because the environment in most schools is not motivating. And what we’ve always said is that these teachers that are trained in special education should always receive special incentives so that they are motivated and allow them to handle these children effectively. Most of the teachers who specialise in special education are not given any incentives and they just leave, which, in-turn, leaves learners without anyone to attend to them,” Chansa said.

“So, we would want to have another school or a college or two that should be there specifically to train more teachers in special education. Right now, the main school is ZAMISE and it is the only school, which trains teachers in special education. So, we need more training colleges for teachers who can handle these children. We have neglected this important component of education; we have a lot of learners needing attention by special teachers, we need infrastructure, we need much more funding, we need more equipment and all schools in our view must have that sensitivity to learners with special education needs, it’s very important that we accommodate these learners.”

He emphasised the need for increased funding towards education and training, together with more teachers qualified in special education.

“What must happen is that the spheres of competence or specialisation must be the norm. We need to have a lot of teachers, who are going to specialise, just like the way doctors do; after doing general medicine, they then start specialising. So, before these teachers graduate, we want to see them specialising so that we have experts in these specialties of special education. Most of our teachers, who have done special education, are not really experts in the field, they are just general teachers. But that is not good enough to handle specific disabilities. We would really want to see that specialisation, even as teachers, train to handle these learners,” said Chansa.

“There is need for increased funding and building more schools and also appealing to the parents not to keep children with special needs at home. Those children have the right to learn and so they shouldn’t be kept at home. Then, to community and church leaders, they must be able to support the education of these children and they should be able to encourage parents to take such learners to school. Who knows…some of these learners could become very important learners in future? So, let us not deny children with special needs a chance to learn.”