“Inclusion is intentional. It is about identifying and removing barriers so that everyone can participate to the best of their ability.” (Unknown)
In 2021, Azra Ebrahim, a visually impaired Matric learner at Open Air School in Durban, became the number one achiever for special schools in KwaZulu – Natal. She also came second nationally. Azra had adapted papers to write her exams, she used a computer program to help, and a magnifier to read. In her school – one of the oldest special needs schools in the province – 19 out of 21 learners got Bachelors passes, and secured top positions at a provincial level.
Azra’s achievements shone a light on learners with special needs, and the resources they require to succeed, such as technical learning aides. At the time, Azra said, “There’s a lot of special equipment that is at my school that isn’t at any other schools. Some equipment such as hi-tec magnifiers that are imported and are expensive, and require a lot of electricity to use, you only find at certain schools, and mine is one of them.”
Why is Azra’s story significant? It matters because as the world acknowledges what is known as Disability Awareness Month in November, we’re reminded of the intricacies that go into ensuring differently-abled learners feel included. The global campaign is celebrated annually from 3 November to 3 December and aims to promote an understanding and raise awareness of disability inclusion while empowering people with disabilities. The international theme proclaimed by the United Nations for this year is: “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.”
Disability is the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory-related, emotional, developmental, or a combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person’s lifetime.
As a society, do we do enough to embrace those living with disabilities? Perhaps. Can we do more? Yes. But how?
- Raising awareness
From a business perspective, we have built a relationship with Open Air School. Over the years, we have supported them and provided learning tools for their learners. As a result, the school has been able to educate special needs youngsters – most of whom come from impoverished backgrounds – and empower them to become independent, well-adjusted people. Earlier this year, BET Software gifted the school with thin clients (computers) to mark its 101st birthday on 9 February, 2022. It’s this continued support that has given learners at Open Air School the confidence to succeed.
- Being intentional and inclusive
According to UNICEF, disability is one of the most serious barriers to education across the globe, and there are an estimated 240 million children living with disabilities worldwide. Yet, children living with disabilities are often overlooked in policymaking, limiting their access to education and their ability to participate in social, economic and political life. UNICEF says that learners with special needs face persistent barriers to education stemming from discrimination, stigma and the routine failure of decision-makers to incorporate disability in school services. Inclusive education, therefore, means real learning opportunities for groups who have traditionally been excluded. At BET, we are proud of two Matric special needs learners from Open Air School, and from Fulton School For The Deaf, who are this year’s scholarship recipients.
It’s a collective effort, to raise awareness and promote the rights of persons living with disabilities. UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has previously said, “As the world recovers from the pandemic, we must ensure that the aspirations and rights of persons with disabilities are included and accounted for in an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world. This vision will only be achieved through active consultation with persons with disabilities and their representative organisations”.
What are you doing to make your community a more inclusive place for those living with disabilities?
Health Systems Trust