Story By Kwebiiha Joshua Stephen
People with special needs are those individuals with mental, emotional, or physical disability. And in this case they may need help with communication, movement, self-care and decision making.
There are different types of special needs among people globally, some of these include cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, emotional disturbance, epilepsy, reading and learning disabilities, pervasive development disorder, speech and language impairments, traumatic brain injury, visual impairments, anxiety.
Uganda martyrs university Nkozi, as one of the leading universities in Uganda has not neglected the fact and reality that there are people with special needs in society and who need to study and succeed in life. The university introduced a course known as BIDE (bachelor of inclusive deaf education) in 2019 to make sure that there is an environment for people with special needs ( the deaf in particular) this course gives the necessary skills required to help people who are deaf. One of the beneficiaries of this course is Watuwa Job a student hard of hearing doing BIDE at the main campus in Nkozi.
Watuwa Job communicating using sign language
The university has provided him with an interpreter to help with sign language, it also helped him by informing the lecturers about his need such that they give him the necessary attention. This course is also training teachers who will be in position to teach those students who are hard of hearing at secondary level. In the videos we can see that Watuwa Job is able to communicate using signs, the language he understands best.
The university is also having a full time canceler to help students with special needs, the canceler is available from Monday to Friday (8:00am-5:00pm) and there is an opportunity of reaching the canceler on phone in case out of office. The university has gone further to create a relationship with the community hospital (Nkozi Hospital) which has made it easy to deal with any emergency.
Isingoma on how special needs people are being helped
In the video, Isingoma Fortunate Akampa, the 27th UMUSU secretary for health tells us about how the university is creating an enabling learning environment for people with special needs.
Guild president speaks about catering for special needs
The 27th UMUSU ( Uganda Martyrs University Students’ Union) president, Kisakye cassias David in the video throws more light on how the university is trying to help students with special needs, he also informs us about the efforts the students’ leadership is investing to make sure that more is done.
The infrastructural design at the university caters for some people with special needs such as those hard of walking or those who use wheel chairs to aid them in walking.
Some of the challenges encountered in creating an enabling learning environment for people with special needs
- Difficulty in identifying those with special needs. Institutions of learning especially universities find it hard to know individuals with special needs due to the setting or how such institutions are organized.
- Lack of trained personnel. There is a challenge of institutions not having personnel skilled to help people with special needs and this is limiting the learning abilities for such people with special needs.
- Inadequate or even lack of facilities. Few universities in Uganda are in position to provide the necessary support to people with special needs.
What can be done to create an enabling learning environment for people with special needs in higher institutions of learning?
- Identifying those people with special needs. This can be done by the university administrators such as registrars, dean of students and students’ leaders.
- Inclusive infrastructure. This involves having strictures to cater for both categories of people.
- Awareness. This is aimed at informing the community around the institution about how to treat people with special needs. This can include language supposed to be used, for instance ‘this student is hard of walking’ instead of ‘this student is lame’
- Investing in technology. Institutions can invest in technology which is fast growing. This will create an enabling learning environment for those with special. For instance gadgets to aid hearing, vision among others.
- Having adequate and trained personnel. This may include lecturers, cancelers and any other needed personnel.