by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Inclusive education is to educate disabled students in the regular classroom
- Teachers under review were not equipped to deal with students with visual impairment
Understanding the value of Inclusive Education for students with special needs and disabilities, Educational Psychologist, Dhana Lazarus has turned her lifelong passion for advocacy for change into action.
Her advocacy started while attaining her bachelor’s degree in Cuba at the University of Universidad Central de Las Villas. She developed a psychoeducational guide, “Prepared teachers and empowered students” and was targeted at mainstream primary school teachers working with students with visual impairments. But Lazarus didn’t stop there. While completing her master’s degree in Special and Inclusive Education from the University College London, Institute of Education, she was a contributing author to the recently published, “Action Research for Inclusive Education: Participation and Democracy in Teaching and Learning” promoting innovative techniques and inclusive educational practices.
The ultimate goal of inclusive education is to educate disabled students in the regular classroom, while at the same time, meet their individual needs. Lazarus’ drive to ensure inclusiveness within the education system stems from her personal experience, diagnosed with visual impairment at the age of 3. Attending the Resource Centre for the Blind and St Joseph’s Convent, St George, she witnessed many challenges and observed deficiencies within the system for students with disabilities. “I was diagnosed with visual impairment. Actually, I was born with visual impairment but was diagnosed at 3 years old and I am partially blind. It is not very visible so I went through school and teachers really didn’t know what to do with me because it looked like I had both my eyes, but I don’t and so that impacted a lot on the sort of help I received. So, my experience wasn’t the best but I understand the reason why it wasn’t, and that’s why I am working to try to help other students coming up who are like me.”
Chapter 2 of the book “Voices of the Unheard” explores the experiences of three teachers from one mainstream primary school in Grenada who work with visually impaired students. These teachers took part in research to improve the psychoeducational guide developed to enable better educational responses to students with visual impairments.
Lazarus explained that stemming from her observation and interview of teachers under review, it was revealed that they weren’t equipped to deal with students with visual impairment and this impacted their delivery in the classroom. “Teachers didn’t seem to know much about their student’s visual impairment. A lack of understanding of the implications of having a visual impairment and the needs of her students with this impairment is evident, but what is also evident is that the teacher places more value on one particular need over another. Another barrier that came about was support and collaboration from relevant personnel. Two teachers emphatically expressed their dissatisfaction with the apparent lack of regard by ministry officials. The teachers’ comments suggest that a top-down leadership approach is exercised by the Ministry of Education which may leave them feeling voiceless and thus impacting negatively on morale and performance.”
During the official launch on Monday, 7 October, Acting Chief Education Officer, Angela Finlay stated that the book is timely since it has been observed that the education system lacks equality in the delivery of education. “When we look at the data compared to the global benchmark, we can boast to a great extent about access, but when it comes to equality, we are a bit on the back foot because data both on exit exams for primary school and what happens more so at the secondary school when students leave school, you find that over 70% of them are not benchmarking and this is a concern. So, it says that we have to do a lot more about that inclusion.”
Finlay encouraged educators to utilise the information within the book to ensure better delivery in the classroom. especially for children with disabilities. “This book is one which every educator should seek to obtain. It draws on the strengths and contributions of teachers. The focus of her publication is to strengthen the participation and independence of all students hence this book should be placed on the must-read list for all educators. I, therefore, encourage all Grenadian lecturers, principals, and teachers to embrace whatever opportunities to get a copy of Dhana’s book,” she said.
Also present at the launch were Her Excellency Iraida Guerrero, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Grenada; Laura Colket, Programme Director of Masters in Education at the St George’s University; Kevin Andall, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Vernice Morain, Past Principal of the Resource Centre for the Blind.
The publication “Action Research for Inclusive Education: Participation and Democracy in Teaching and Learning” is available on Amazon and is also available through both the CRC Press and Routledge Publishing company.