The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul, a Catholic congregation of reverend sisters, has appealed to Federal and State Governments to award bursary to students with disability in tertiary institutions.
Rev. Sr. Fidelia Unigwe, the National Coordinator of Child Empowerment Programme an NGO of the organisation, made the plea in Abuja, during its “Disability Learning Exchange’’ programme.
According to Unigwe the financial support if awarded yearly, quarterly or monthly, would cushion the various challenges that PWDs encounter in their academic pursuit.
“Disability bursary disbursement is an international practice that should be adopted and domesticated in Nigeria, to encourage education for PWDs and to ease the burden on parents and guardians.
“Bursary awards should be given to young persons with disability in the university to support their education both in federal and state institutions.
“Governments and learning institutions whether private or public should make deliberate efforts to practice a disability friendly bursary disbursement, as this practice would boost self reliance and sustenance.’’
Unigwe urged state governments to make necessary budgetary provisions and allocations for construction and rehabilitation of school structures for the benefit of PWDs, with emphasis on those on wheel chairs and the blind.
She said that if funding was channeled into disability course in the education sector as a whole, the level of PWDs living in poverty would decrease.
She commended the organisation’s major funding partners, the Liliane Fonds in the Netherlands, for faithfully contributing to the alleviation of poverty in Nigeria.
“The Liliane Fonds in the Netherlands have contributed immensely to payments of school fees, surgery fees, medical bills, and general elevation of livelihoods, like trainings on vocation skills and various empowerments for more than 40 years.
“We need more donors to commit to funding of PWDs education, livelihoods and social programmes,’’ she said.
She said the group, organised the exchange programme for its local partners including, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and relevant boards responsible for disability affairs at state levels.
Mrs Nkechi Onwukwe, the Director, Rehabilitation Department of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, said that no child should be disadvantaged due to disabilities.
“Current emerging issues and dynamics in the area of disability as predicted by the 2030 Sustainable Developments Goals known as “leaving no one behind’’ have necessitated the need for more inclusive approach to development.
“We need a society where everyone is given equal opportunity both as a contributor and as beneficiary in order to reduce barriers to inclusion.’’
Onwukwe, however, assured of the ministry’s support and willingness to collaborate on disability related issues.
Mr Oguntoye Oyewole, the Executive Chairman, Lagos State Office of Disability Affairs (LASODA), commended the organisation for championing the course for inclusive education for children with disability in the country.
He said that Lagos state government had been a leading state in championing the course of PWDs in the country for almost a decade.
According to him, the state government is doing a lot to ensure inclusive education by establishing more schools to address challenges of proximity to schools for special needs children.
“Lagos state government has increased the number of schools in the state; this is to tackle issue of proximity from home to the school as one major issue of special needs children is distance.
“The state is also ensuring that there is no segregation in schools because we found out that schools practice segregation instead of inclusion which ought not to be.
“Children with special needs are not to be kept in separate classrooms from their peers, the state is trying to ensure that since all schools run the same curriculum every learner is kept or placed in the same classrooms.
“Also, teachers and non-special needs children are being thought disability friendliness and approaches, Lagos state is ensuring that its schools are totally inclusive for all children,’’ Oyewole said.
He urged all other states across the country to establish a disability office, enact, adopt and domesticate a disability law to address the needs of PWDs in the state.