Schools for all: national planning in Lesotho

This chapter is based on a review of developments towards inclusive education in Lesotho during the period 1990-1995. It draws upon the findings of a national feasibility study, and lessons learned from the work of the Special Education Curriculum Committee, which was established to promote cross-sectoral collaboration and to develop curriculum materials for teacher education on the issue of inclusive education.

Findings of the feasibility study

The review found that, although there were clear national policy guidelines written by an external consultant, there was a lack of both human and material resources for the implementation of inclusive education – just one trained education officer based in the Ministry of Education, and no books or equipment. The study found that over 17% of all primary children had some sort of impairment which affected their education; including visual, hearing, physical and learning impairments; children with learning disabilities formed the largest group; over 85% of teachers were in favour of the policy of integration; the pupils interviewed were in favour of the proposed integration policy; 99% of parents interviewed were in favour of integration.  The physical conditions in the schools were found to be very poor for all children and were mostly inaccessible to wheelchair users. Although teachers do their best to help slow learners, they lack the knowledge, skills and support to benefit them significantly.  The teachers welcomed the idea of further training. However, the review also found that the staff in the largely NGO-funded specialist centres (twelve schools with 400 children) had negative attitudes towards integration and many of their policies and practices contradicted the government policy.

Identification of pilot schools and training of teachers

The review summarises the process of identifying pilot schools, through the process of conducting the feasibility study. Each school had about twenty children identified as having a range of different impairments, and with a wide age range. One teacher from each grade, together with the head teacher, from each of the pilot schools, attended an initial three week, in-service training workshop. Although teachers had initially attended with some reluctance because the training took place during part of the school holidays, the teachers reported that the training had improved their overall teaching skills and understanding of how children learn. Follow-up workshops were held at six monthly intervals, with schools visits being made by Ministry of Education staff in between the training sessions.

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