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.