Where education is indiscriminate

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Where education is indiscriminate by

KELETSO THOBEGA

Including children with disability at schools is one way the government of Botswana is trying to create an inclusive environment. Since the mid-2 000s, learners in classrooms are a mix of those who are considered mainstream and those who are “intellectually challenged”.

According to the Bothakga Primary School head, children with disabilities are assessed first by a psychologist before enrolling with the school. “We have to do this because in some cases, parents keep their children at home without sending them to school. When social workers come across them on their home visits they bring them here so that they too can enjoy the benefits of going through the education system like all other children,” she said.

The government of Botswana, through the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, wants to ensure that children living with disabilities are included in mainstream education and are not isolated.

This is so that these children can benefit emotionally from social interactions, while their self-esteem can be restored and that they can learn how to operate in the real world from a young age.

Children with disabilities who are accepted at Botakga range from moderate to severe (multiple physical and speech disabilities).

Also, the entry age is not a barrier to admission, according to the school management. While children without any disabilities have to enroll at six years of age, those with disabilities are exempt from this regulation due to their unique circumstances.

The curriculum

The school’s curriculum covers children who cannot benefit from normal academic work to learn life skills which, in turn, will help them not to be overly dependent on others for their daily survival. The Beginners level class covers stimulation through teaching learners pre-writing, reading, and self-help skills, as well as adaptive and survival skills. Children living with disability are also expected to complete the seven-year cycle of primary education like other children.

At Bothakga Primary School’s prize giving ceremony in 2016, these children were lavished with attention as they were given awards for excellence in different subjects. There was also a special seating arrangement, where they were celebrated for their strides in their academic journey.

Further training and job placements

The Lobatse Town Council assists most of these children with food baskets, while there is also a council bus that transports them to and from school.

After the completion of their primary school education, most of the learners from Bothakga specifically go to Camphill in Otse Village, where they are trained in vocational activities that include poultry, bee keeping and gardening, as well as arts and crafts. While this is expected to give them a headstart in life, the challenge is that some of them end up unemployed as society still stigmatises people living with disabilities.

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