Disability is not Inability: Eliminating Teachers with Disabilities in Education
is an Unpopular Move by the Education Ministry
Ustaz Atem Dut Kuek
A story loaded on Gurtong Web Site (GOSS to remove teachers with disabilities) flabbergasted me. I felt like living in an
with no international connections, and wished I was the only one accessible to the story; to avoid external mockery to my dear country,
The Ministry has made a very popular move of counting teachers, a purpose geared to downsizing the numbers of ghost teachers on the payrolls, a strategy meant to minimize cost and maximize production. But if this is majoring in only discovering that “defected” teachers are the hunted “ghost” teachers, then the whole objective is diverted, or a wrong tactic is employed to achieve the right strategy; making it unpopular.
Handicap comes as a result of infectious diseases such as polio, German measles, etc, poor or inadequate nutrition for expectant mothers and growing children, abnormal pre-natal and postnatal events, accident and wars, various environmental factors, heredity and general factors which are rampant here. And like any other country after war,
in particular is filled with disabilities and persons with such special needs. Eliminating these teachers in their teaching career is not a panacea to our inadequate resources, or to be precise, our inequitable resources. Handicap? Across many colleges and humanitarian sects, terms like persons living with disability, persons with special needs, and the rest of those with euphemisms are acceptable.
The term Exceptional Children is common among trained teachers. At the classroom level, the term exceptional child is generally accepted to mean either the handicapped or the gifted child. It is that child who deviates from the average or normal mental, physical or social characteristics to such an extent that s/he requires modification of the normal school practice or special education services in order to develop his full potential. An exceptional child may fall in one or several of the following categories: The mentally gifted (advanced in mental abilities), the mentally retarded, the visually impaired, the hearing impaired, emotionally disturbed, the physically impaired and the multiple handicapped. Handicap refers to limitations caused to an individual in his society, culture or environment by the presence of impairment.
Thanks my dear reader for putting up with that paragraph which bores you back to academic volumes forgotten, maybe early.
Therefore to a professional teacher like me, forgive me for putting on airs, it is an equally a challenge to meet the needs of the handicapped child and that of the mentally gifted. They are a bar below average and above average respectively, and call for similar plans and attention to sustain them in the same class. The curriculum is so complex, it is developed by the education ministry with a national focus involving major issues like religions, economics and politics. The same ministry simplifies the curriculum into the syllabus to be used by the teacher, thanks to it. Now it is up to the teacher to make schemes of work, with SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time framed) objectives to help pupils get the content with ease. That is not enough; a teacher is expected to draw his/her lesson plan to marry the content to time frames.
That is not enough yet; a teacher is expected to keep the record of work covered and keep attendance records to help him make remedial lessons and easy tracking of pupils in the class.
Let us assume two pupils, one with special need and one normal, had undergone through this smart system lay down by education ministry in the past and had become teachers, and now the physically impaired (or whatever disability) is being removed. Is the ministry not handicapping him more? Living examples are our teachers during the war. In the early 1990s, most of teachers were soldiers handicapped by war. They could not run with guns after enemy, yes, but they could then carry chalks (charcoals of course) to start us off to who we are today. More particulate example is my colleague at the teachers college who was handicapped (I can not name him here because I have not taken permission to do so yet). This teacher emerged the best out of over three hundred teachers; scooping an exceptional distinction; aggregate 8. Can we “remove” this teacher because he ‘can deflect the attention of your child’ when he is better off than a four-legged failure and two-eyed drunkard?
My experience with children/pupils is that they are fond of giving names to their teachers, including those who are physically upright. Some names are so irrelevant and meaningless (but not to the children; they have a reason for it) like when our Class Two referred to one of our teachers as “Mr. Digging” because we learnt the term from him. Some call their teachers by the names of the subjects they teach or how they behave or even how they dress. It is a common phenomenon in the learning setting. It is therefore up to a teacher to put up with the name or quit the teaching profession. Who have ever failed as a learner because he was taught by a handicapped teacher if he delivers his or her lessons well? Who have ever stuck crippling because he has imitated how his teacher moves? I am not deceitful but third of my teachers at lower primary were handicapped! I am neither crippling today because of my English teacher nor has my Mathematics teacher mapped her hunchback onto me.
As the bible says, it is what comes out that destroys a man. The worst teacher is the one who drinks on job, the one who seduces pupils for sexual gains, the one who segregates other children because of their gender, disability or race, the one who steals or the one that beats pupils because they don’t perform well in his or her subjects.
The Ministry of Public Service will not “cater for defected teachers” but will only direct them to their career-related sectors. This ministry has the role of the national orientation; identifying opportunities for the citizens, turning threats and weaknesses into national strength, keeping the records of employees and the rest of that nature. The Commission for the wounded and widows established by Government of Southern Sudan too can not employ them! This commission was decreed to advocate for the needs and rights of the wounded heroes and families of heroes lost during the war. They can not take a professional teacher out of his job and strained to find something doing for him. It is not possible! They have enough persons living with disabilities at hand; those who have not holistically befitted from the rehabilitation programs yet.
Where is the ministry disposing these teachers then? Are we telling them to go and cultivate? When we know the chalk is lighter than the hoe?
Children or learners for that matter are everywhere. Where are we disposing them? The milk is white, weather it comes from a white or a black/red/green/yellow cow. Why then eliminating these teachers when they are imparting the same knowledge and skills to our children, like the proper teachers (without disabilities)?
Persons with disabilities are entitled to exercise their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights on an equal basis with others under all the international treaties. The full participation of persons with disabilities benefits society as their individual contributions enrich all spheres of life and this is an integral part of individual's and society's well-being and progress for a society for all - with or without disabilities.
The United Nations Charter  affirms the essentiality of “a universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction…”
The rights of individuals with disabilities are grounded in a human rights framework based on the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international covenants on human rights and related human rights instruments.
So where is that Universal Policy claimed by our ministry in its claim to scale away the handicaps? The Government of Southern Sudan’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has the challenge to fight for inclusion of pupils with special needs as well as meeting gender parity seen in the South’s schools. The society needs these groups and weeding off their roles is degrading our societies and therefore, the ministry of education should only improvise options to favor them offer better services and to make them feel contributing to the development of our young nation.
Disability is not Inability
The writer can be reached at [email protected]
Ustaz Atem Dut Kuek