Currently In the education services there are gradual changes towards special needs education as it is moving toward inclusive settings. Positive change of attitudes are taking place enhances inclusive education in Tanzania. As such the best education services for children with special needs is inclusive setting (Mboya and Possi 1996) as allows all participating fully in developing the nation. Furthermore, the real world is not segregated in regular and special sectors and if children are educated in a system that does not delineate between people, all students will be prepared for society. Possi (1999) argued that students with disabilities should be educated in an inclusive education setting because after their graduation these children are expected to live in their mainstream society where the majority of the population do not have disabilities. The question to ask is how do we prepare our special needs teachers so that we build a society that accepts equality. Currently special needs teachers in higher education are inadequately professionally prepared. This is because special needs education is not given much attention; furthermore, the training in conventional universities is theoretically based. for example the teaching practice is done once in special school in SEKUCo there fore teachers produced will not be efficiency and effective in teaching.
The increased provision of education for the handicapped in the country has been held back by many problems. Some of these problems included: an absence of a policy for the care of the handicapped; an absence of a valid statistics to depict the different types of handicaps in the region and negative attitude of society towards the whole question of people with special needs (MNE, 1984). These problems are still prevailing, though some efforts have been taken to lessen the extent. In 1984 the government of the United Republic of Tanzania, bearing in mind the problems mentioned above, stipulated some steps to be taken, among them are:
· Children with disabilities to be enrolled in schools and colleges alongside the non-disabled children.
· government to take responsibilities in making necessary adjustments to the school and college buildings in order to make it possible for the handicapped to use them;
· existing special schools for the handicapped to be expanded in terms of buildings, increased supply of equipment and materials. These schools were planned to be supplied with teachers with necessary qualifications to offer service to children who have such special handicaps that they cannot benefit much by being enrolled in the school of children without handicaps;
· Ministry of Social Welfare was given the task of preparing a policy on special education; and expansion of services to handicaps to be based on statistics available (MNE, 1984).
All these problems and earmarked plans have not been fulfilled. There are still problems with policy on special education; the budget for special needs education is inadequately allocated taking an example of school for the blind, they receive the same capitation grants regardless of high price of their equipments used for learning. As such special needs education has not been given its due attention.
The approach to special needs education has changed with the recognition that many learners other than learners with disabilities have special educational needs or a need for other special support services. Such learners could include learners with social and emotional problems, learners with language difficulties, street children, children who have experienced wars, orphans, children heading families, children who are suffering from HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses (Kristensen, 2002). It is from this view there is a need to prepare teachers that are adequate and competent in teaching inclusive classes. The reason is that teachers were trained to teach mainstream schools (Mmbaga, 2002) where people with disabilities were excluded. The curriculum used to prepare such teachers did not include a special education component, where special needs education was included, lacked expertise to appropriately competently teach.
The trends of special needs education in Tanzania.
Since the early 1960s, education for all has been on top of the agenda in all regions of the world. However, inclusive education is currently a topical subject that is widely discussed and debated in the field of education. It has variously been referred to as part of the global education for all agenda as a new education paradigm and as an educational reform. For this reform to meet the indented goals that generally are to make our societies inclusive, the whole society has to be involved. The one to involve all is actually, the social worker. The teacher can not do alone, as the teaching professions in developing in most countries are examination based. It is Finland that has been successful in including all students, by employing teaching assistants and stressing on inclusion, with the exception of children with severe problems or syndromes like Autism who are placed in a special class (Andersen, 2004).
The Scandinavian countries have political and economic conditions which enable them to carry out research in new trends, in education, such as methods to be used for the successful implementation of inclusion of learners with special educational needs into ordinary classes (Kristensen, 2002). Likewise, in Tanzania the idea of inclusive education is now in intensive discussion, and what possible educational adjustments could successfully be adopted from some Scandinavian perspectives of inclusive education is what motivates the researcher to conduct this study on teachers’ conceptions on teaching in primary schools in inclusive classrooms.
Miles (2002) defines inclusive education as a process of increasing the participation of all students in schools, including those with disabilities. She adds that it is about restructuring the cultural policies and practices in schools so that they respond to the diversity of students in their locality. Miles concludes that inclusive education has the following characteristics: it acknowledges that all children can learn and it respects differences in children such as age, gender, disability, language and ethnicity.
Inclusive education enables education structures, systems and methodologies to meet the needs of all children; also it is part of a wider strategy to promote an inclusive society and is a dynamic process that is constantly evolving.
Inclusive education is a process of operating a classroom or school as a supportive community. Among the above definitions, the similarities in defining inclusive education to all the authors is that all of them talk about equality and equity in education for every individual. And also that all children are different and therefore the school and the education system need to change in order to meet the individual needs of all learners with and without impairments. However, inclusion does not mean assimilation or making everyone the same, but a key ingredient is flexibility, acknowledging that children learn at different rates and teachers need skills to support their learning in a flexible way. This is a challenge to higher learning institutions on how to prepare teachers who would meet the learning needs of all children. In the most cases, children simply need good, clear and accessible teaching. This includes the use of different teaching methods and strategies to respond to different student needs, capacities and rates of understanding. Thus, inclusive education can act as a catalyst for change in educational practice, leading to improved quality of education.
Inclusive education promotes an activity that helps disabled children to develop their full potential, become self-reliant and participate in their own communities. At the same time, it challenges discriminatory attitudes in the community, helping parents to think positively about their disabled children and promoting wider social inclusion (Stubbs & Ghiasuddin, 1999). Furthermore, inclusion is the process of bringing disabled and non – disabled students into a regular classroom. Focusing on the classroom practice, Rogers (1993) points out that those involved in inclusion efforts understand that classrooms are becoming more diverse and that the teacher’s job is to arrange instruction that benefits all students – even though the various students may derive different benefits.
As such an inclusive classroom is a class, which looks different all the time because the environment is created by whatever interactions the teacher and students have as a group or as individuals in the group. In inclusive classrooms a lot of student do different things, with people (peer students) helping them, and students move from one environment to another. It is a classroom where learning often happens in small groups with peers helping and supporting each other. It is a classroom that is student-centred. Students have a high level of responsibility for creating their community. Thus, in my view inclusion without resources, without support, without teacher preparation or training without commitment, without a vision statement, and without restructuring is nothing and may “end in vain”. Hence, looking at teachers’ professional development in teaching inclusive classrooms and the work of a social work is referred to as referrals is very crucial.
From the above, there is a need to introduce comprehensive special needs education in all teacher professional development programs to make them teach effectively, as well as in the social workers curriculum so as to help society to accept persons with special needs.
One of the strategies to achieve this is to change teachers, tutors and lecturers’ conceptions of teaching. A conception of teaching is a “mental model” of practice, context, and the purpose of teaching to “guide planning, decision making – and action”. However, conceptions of teaching vary, according to the presenters, in just two ways. Teaching is either an attempt to increase students’ knowledge by transmitting content, or it is an attempt to facilitate learning by changing students’ perceptions. Thus, teachers’ conceptions of teaching affect both their activities as teachers and learning outcomes of their students’.
Inclusive classes are tough differently by different teachers in Tanzania some had perspective of teaching as facilitating knowledge and others are in imparting knowledge perspective
Teachers’ conceptions of teaching in an inclusive classroom in primary education may vary accordingly. One can say that despite all the different conceptions that will be explained by teachers and the problems connected to the process of teaching in inclusive classrooms in primary schools, inclusion should be highly advocated. Because it caters for all individual needs and reduces racial isolation and social discrimination. It enhances minority achievement and promotes educational equity and equality. Also, it opens new opportunities and maintains community support.
However, disabled children need more attention in terms of curriculum adaptation, teaching methods, and availability of teaching and learning materials, assistive technology, assessment systems, as well as funds for more assistance in adapting the school environment. Regular teachers are a key resources in the successfully implementation of inclusive education in terms of altitudes and the way they conceptualise teaching in inclusive classrooms.
Experiences from Rainbow primary school for children with mental retardation:
Teachers’ are employed by the Government of Tanzania. The school caters the needs of all types of disabilities. Parents pay TAS 30,000/= per year. Students come from different places within Lushoto town. Students are provided with transport, powledge, lunch and in some cases clothings. The school is owned by Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania – Nordth Eastern Diaoces (ELCT-NED). The school has built close relationship with a sister school in German, Wishernschule. As such learning materials and curriculum is adapted from this sisters school.
A discussion with the head of school
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