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Making school environment accessible for inclusive education

Updated on August 2, 2016
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Journey of Accessible school environment

Making school environment accessible for inclusive education

What is Inclusive education?

Inclusive education means that all students attend and are welcomed by schools in age-appropriate, regular classes and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school. Inclusive education is about how we develop and design our schools, classrooms, programs and activities so that all students learn and participate together.

Why Accessible school environment:

In a developing country like Bangladesh children with disabilities are normally ignored and if that is a severe disability then the percentage of ignorance increased. Though there are laws and acts for the rights of education for children with disabilities, but due to not getting friendly environment at school a huge number of children with disabilities not enroll in school. And if they enrolled most of them drop out within a short period. For that reason under PHRPBD through disability inclusion project CDD tried to develop accessible environment at 5 schools of Kulaura to make them role model on inclusive education.

What is Accessibility:

Accessibility means access. It refers to the ability for everyone, regardless of disability or special needs, to access, use and benefit from everything within their environment. It is the “degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible.”

Objective:

Accessibility is one of the major areas to ensure inclusive education. Under a project named PHRPBD through disability inclusion CDD is going to work at 5 schools of Kulaura to make them role model on inclusive education. Objective of that work were:

  • To improve accessibility and provides the basis for an access improvement plan or strategy;
  • To assess the accessibility situation of those 5 schools and it also enhances the activities of making accessible environment there;
  • To get an accessible environment of those schools a standard need to be fixed.

Area of coverage:

To get an accessible environment two major areas need to be covered. One is infrastructural and another one is attitudinal changes. Both areas are very important to get an accessible environment. This project works to make those schools accessible from all possible perspective.

To get an accessible infrastructure, following areas need to consider.

  1. Entrance at school compound;
  2. Entrance at school building;
  3. Entrance at class room/office room/library;
  4. Toilet/wash room;
  5. Water sources;
  6. Signage;
  7. Class room environment (Switch board, black board, lighting, sitting arrangements, etc.).

Journey towards accessible environment:

PHRPBD project facilitated a process to create inclusive environment at selected schools in one project working area. The project team reviewed different secondary document on inclusive education and introduced a process to established inclusive education in 5 schools of Kulaura. From the project a role model will be developed to use for future demonstration. For that purpose a team from CDD first went to Kulaura for initial visit. There they visit five schools, meet with the teachers, school management committee (SMC), union parishad chairman and finally with upazila education officials. Few days later a team from CDD went to these schools again for accessibility assessment and to finalize an activity plan to make those schools inclusive, where teachers, SMC and local govt. representatives were intensively engaged. Full activity plan was also shared with Upazila Education Officer (UEO). He made some changes and gave some excellent ideas to make that plan fruitful. He also monitors those activities regularly, as he has the administrative power on education sector of that upazila. Besides that CDD organize training for selected school teachers and a workshop with related stakeholders on inclusive education.

Process for accessible school environment

  • Organize a workshop on inclusive education and strategies;
  • Develop a guideline for school adaptation, especially for children with disabilities;
  • Prepare tools for accessibility assessment of those schools;
  • Then a team went to field for initial assessment. This team went to that 5 selected schools and prepare a report of their visit.
  • Then a team went to these schools and sit with the teachers and SMC members to finalize an activity plan to make those schools inclusive.
  • Besides that the process of training for teachers on inclusive education is going on.
  • Field worker of PHRPBD project regularly went to the schools and provide orientation on disability to students, parents, teachers and SMC members to create a positive attitudinal change among them.

Changes of circumstances/environments:

During assessment period a team from CDD went to those 5 schools and took details information on accessibility, which can help us to compare between previous and current situation of those school. To see the visual change of those schools in the accessibility are given below:

Entrance of the school:

Previous: Entrances of those schools were not accessible for children with disabilities. In some areas (like Pachpeer Protabi School) entrance was not accessible for anyone. According to teachers of that school entrance was very risky for every one especially in the rainy season.

Pachpeer Protabi school

Current: Now in every school either there is a connecting road from entrance to school building or the entrances have been made accessible for all and safer for children. At Mirjapur School there was big drain at the entrance of the school. So for the safety of the children wall has been built at both sides of the entrances.

Pachpeer Protabi school

Protabi Govt. school

Ramp at school building:

Previous: 3 schools out of 5 had ramp at their new school building. But due to lack of connecting road from entrance those ramps were not fully usable. On the other hand there were no ramps or connecting road at old building of those 5 schools.

Current: Now all those schools have either ramp at their school building with handrails or there are connecting road from entrance to school building. Besides that now all schools have connecting road between new and old school buildings.

Wash room / toilet:

Previous: Out of those 5 schools there was no toilet which can be called accessible. During assessment period findings were: there were no slopes or ramp at the entrance of toilets, in most cases doors were too narrow for wheel chair, no toilet chair/ high commode, no grab bar or something like that.

Current: Now all the schools have connecting road from main school building to toilet. Other facilities like toilet chair/ commode, grab bar, door width for wheel chair has been built or modified for getting accessible environment.

Water supply/Tube well:

Previous: 3 schools had tube well inside the old school building with a small boundary in every side of the tube well to protect water. These boundaries also protected wheel chair users not to get water from tube well. One school had supply water inside the washroom. And most interesting thing is one school there was no facility for water supply during assessment period.

Current: Now all schools have facilities for water supply with accessibility. Pachpeer Protabi School builds a new room for tubewell. Due to successful advocacy local authority provided water pump at Korergram School. Besides that now every school have water jar is suitable place for the students.

Tactile sign: There was no tactile sign for visually impaired children at any places of those schools. But now tactile sign (parking tiles) has been used in front of every classroom, teacher’s room, toilet, etc.

Electric switchboard & wearing: Previously it was found that electric switch board and wearing were not safe enough as those has done by unskilled local people. But now the whole electrical system has set by skilled mechanic. Heights of the switchboards are not accessible for wheel chair users, because the teachers say it could be dangerous for all the children of schools.

Overall outlook:

Now those schools are attracting the students and their parents as well as community people. New color, connecting roads, accessible sanitary and water supply system, new book self, extra corner for pre-primary students are the areas which attract them. As a result of training and orientation teachers and school management committee are now cordial than before, which also create affirmative change in the community.

Conclusion:

This is just the beginning of changing process. Few infrastructural changes have made and a lot will change according to need. At the same time awareness session /meeting is going on with students, parents, teachers and school management committee for attitudinal changes. During this period it is noticed that, interest of children and their parents increases about those schools. As a result the ratio of increasing number of children of those five schools is noteworthy. At the same time number of children with disabilities of those schools also increases. Involvement and ownership of local education department and community was remarkable to make those schools inclusive. Teachers and school management committees are also working dedicatedly to make their schools a model of an inclusive school. This is a very good example for others that, Government, NGO and community collaboration is very effective in development sector.

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