Friday, March 27, 2009

Inclusion issues...

Inclusion, the philosophy and practice of educating students with disabilities in general education settings, is one concept that has gained great popularity in today’s world of special needs education. Although generating significant attention world wide as a new way of educating the special-needs population, the readiness of countries to adopt this concept varies significantly. Zigler in Chapter 11 gives a good description of the advances made so far in the U.S. in adopting the inclusive approach. A transition from no to myriad services, as provided for by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), guarantees free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to all children with disabilities. Parents are also “given the rights to be involved in their child’s education to a degree envied by parents of children without disabilities” (p.266).Indeed the U.S. has clearly made great strides in adopting the inclusive approach.

In Nigeria, though as in many countries in Africa where the issue of providing for children with special needs still poses significant challenges, the story of inclusion differs. The wide attention given to the education of people with special needs at the policy level over the years had not adequately been reflected at the level of implementation. Some pertinent problems with special education include a lack of adequate plans for the identification of disabled children; The persistent involvement in begging by many of these children, which some perceive as an occupation for persons with disabilities, further aggravated by a poor awareness that children with disabilities can still acquire an education ;The local culture, which is also a significant determinant of the perception of disability and the subsequent attitude towards disabled persons. For instance parents may strive to hide disabled child(ren), for fear that such children may ‘tarnish the family’s image’. This is quite common in African societies where the explanation of occurrences can often be superstitious.

Beyond these, over the years government and non-governmental efforts have been more preoccupied with tackling the problem of illiteracy in the general population, which more often than not takes priority over special needs education. At those times when attention is given to special needs education, it has more often been directed towards basic education for the girl child and/or nomadic groups. Not very much consideration had been given to children with disabilities. Nontheless with the climaxing international appraisal of the inclusive schooling system, particularly by UNESCO and the Salamanca declaration of 1994, which provided the needed international and theoretical frames for inclusive education, the Nigerian education system is currently undergoing a major reform with the aim of including students with special needs in regular classrooms. This is reflected in the newly revised National Policy on Education which places emphasis on inclusive education (2008), hopefully this will have better luck at significantly impacting the movement towards inclusion in the near future.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The loss of innocence

"You refuse to do it, but in the end you have to accept reality. You can run away, but where do you run to? You want to talk, but who do you talk to? You are totally confused."
-This was the plight of a young Nigerian girl who had been trafficked to Italy. When she realized that she had been lied to and that she would have to sell sex instead of working in a restaurant, as she had been promised, she cried non-stop for 5 days.

But Nigeria is not the only country perpetrating human trafficking, nor is it the only nation suffering from its effects. Child trafficking affects children throughout the world, in both industrialized and developing countries. Estimated figures of the number of people trafficked around the world every year are placed at one to two million people —mostly women and children.

Trafficked children are subjected to prostitution, organs/body part removals, forced into marriage or illegally adopted; they provide cheap or unpaid labor, work as house servants or beggars, are recruited into armed groups, and are used for sports. These involvements, exposes them to violence, sexual abuse and HIV infection, and violates their rights to be protected, grow up in a family environment and have access to education.This is the plight of millions of children worldwide who have become silent victims in international populations, forming the very heart of an international crime for which no reliable statistics are available to determine how big the problem really is.

In a flashback of the readings on the “Social Service Systems”, Zigler defines child abuse and neglect “as any action or lack of action, resulting in imminent risk or serious harm, death, serious physical or emotional harm , sexual abuse or exploitation …of a child…” The readings go on to discuss issues of physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children, most of which are relatively familiar to us. However no mention was made of child trafficking –a subject matter which as recently as fifteen years ago was relatively nonexistent in academic study; but is becoming increasingly relevant for students who will become lawyers, doctors, legislators and policy makers.

Trafficking of children is one of the gravest violations of human rights in the world today. Children and their families are lured by the empty promises of the trafficking networks, through false promises of a better life, an escape route from poverty; and every year, hundreds of thousands of children are smuggled across borders and sold as mere commodities.

Some grim facts:
-UNICEF estimates that 1,000 to 1,500 Guatemalan babies and children are trafficked each year for adoption by couples in North America and Europe.
-Girls as young as 13 (mainly from Asia and Eastern Europe) are trafficked as “mail-order brides.” In most cases these girls are powerless and isolated and at great risk of violence.
-Large numbers of children are being trafficked in West and Central Africa, mainly for domestic work but also for sexual exploitation and to work in shops or on farms. Nearly 90 per cent of these trafficked domestic workers are girls. Some children are sent as far away as the Middle East and Europe

The role of organized crime in human trafficking must really never be underestimated, as it is a highly lucrative business, with illicit profits annually estimated at US$32 billion (ILO Global Report for 2005). It is considered to offer the third largest source of income to organized crime, after small arms (weapons) and drug smuggling which are the two most lucrative forms of organized crime internationally.

In the U.S. Contrary to common assumptions, of the lack of the prevalence of child trafficking, cases have been reported in all 50 states and Washington D.C. , as well as in some U.S. territories. Victims include, U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Children are trafficked to the United States for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation; and an unknown number of U.S. citizens and legal residents are trafficked within the country primarily for sexual servitude and, to a lesser extent, forced labor.

Click on the links and watch the two brief videos:

So as unimaginable as it seems, slavery and bondage still persist in the 21st century. With the millions of children involved , trafficking in persons is clearly one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time-[The U.S Department trafficking in persons report, June 2003]