Basirat Razaq-Shuaib

I think the subject of making mainstream classrooms inclusive in LMICs is layered, complex, and needs to be addressed from different perspectives.

Thinking about my limited experience of working in a Nigerian context, making the classroom inclusive brings to mind a number of questions that are intertwined and cannot be addressed in isolation. For instance, What will the child learn (curriculum)? How will the child learn (resources and accessibility)? Where will the child learn (class sizes)? Who will help the child learn (teachers, support staff etc)? What influence do parents of children without disabilities have on mainstream schools’ ability to take on and support children with disabilities? All these questions unfortunately cannot be detached from the overall state of education within this context.

Attempting to answer each of these questions brings up further questions. For instance, if we take teachers as one of the people who will help the child learn, we then need to address the question: How can teachers be supported to help children with disabilities learn in mainstream classrooms? This question alone however would require addressing the contextual factors that impact many teachers’ ability to support children with disabilities in a classroom such as their level of know-how, teacher wellbeing, motivation for the job and the support available to them in doing their job amongst others. Again digging further and investigating motivation for the job as an example might reveal issues such as poverty as underlying factors.

Therefore, within these contexts, beyond prescribing training for teachers, funding from the government and designing enabling policies amongst others, it would be beneficial to understand and address the underlying factors that impede classroom inclusiveness.

In terms of practices that have produced positive results, again within my limited experience of working in a Nigerian context, there has been anecdotal evidence of the usefulness of parents enrolling their children with disabilities (specifically down syndrome, cerebral palsy and some neurodevelopmental disorders) in small-sized low-cost mainstream schools which though may not be classified as “inclusive”, have shown the willingness and the heart to learn from and work with the parents in understanding how the child can be best supported at school. This scaffolding approach thrives mainly on the schools’/ teachers’ willingness to try despite inadequate resources and their cooperation with the parents who are seen as experts of their children’s conditions.