Barangays and Parents Reaching out and Enrolling In out of School Children with Disabilities

The 5th Metro Manila Leaders’ Consortium on Inclusive Education was successfully held on February 4, 2011 at Commonwealth Elem. School in Quezon City.

Parents and volunteers from Payatas, Q.C. forging their commitment of finding and enrolling children with disabilities

Having theme “Parents and Barangays Reaching out and Enrolling In Out of school children with Disabilities”, the said activity is aimed at maximizing the human resources of both the barangay and the parents of children with disabilities in reaching out of school children with disbailtiies and eventually escorting these children to enroll in proximate public elementary schools. This strategy was comprehensively discussed under the Kayag-Kayag Strategy Module.

The said activity was attended by a total of 70 participants, majority of which are parents of children with disabilities, followed by teachers of the host school, representatives of participating local government units and volunteer workers.

Marlon Fulo, Program Manager of Leonard Cheshire Disability Philippines Foundation (LCDPF)’s Inclusive Education, discussed common public misconceptions about children with disabilities (CWDs). Fulo said that the present systems consider CWDs as the problem because they have special needs, needs special equipments, and are different from “normal” or non-disabled children.

CWDs are, thus,”systematically denied access to education.”

According to Fulo, Inclusive Education views “external systems” as  problems, because of rigid curriculum and rigid teaching methods, poor quality of teachers’ training, inaccessible environment, etc. which prevents many CWDs from enrolling into regular schools, and causes more to drop-out or to repeat the grade level.

Fulo also made mention of  “Education, Poverty and Disability” a 2004 study by James Lynch which found out  that Inclusive Education would effectively “reduce social welfare cost and future dependence”.

After the welcome address by the president of LCDPF Mrs. Lulu Reyes, there was also a brief speech by LCDPF Board Member Mr. Vicente Hao Chin, who said that much still needs to be done to improve the plight of people with disabilities (PWDs) and  that LCDPF  exists for  that purpose.

He  also stressed the important role being played  by both government and private sectors in countries like US and Canada, with their specific programs for PWDs. Then, groups of CWDs from Commonwealth Elem. School presented a dance and song number.

Ronaldo Meneses, Inclusive Education’s Area Coordinator for Region III  (Central Luzon) spoke about Community Organizing as a method for empowering parents of CWDs and volunteers residing in the communities.

Mr. Richard D. Arceno, LCDPF’s National Coordinator, noted that despite the more than 100 years of special education (SPED), there remains at least 50 to 100 out-of-school CWDsin each barangay, for a total of 2,000,000 out-of-school CWDs, 3- to 18 years old, all over  the Philippines. The Inclusive Education initiative program aims to enroll 1,5000 CWDs to regular schools, alongside non-disabled children.

One of the guest speakers during the 5th I.E. Leaders’ Consortium was Hon. Cristina Guno-o, a barangay Kagawad  representing Brgy. 179 -in Amparo, Caloocan (North) who introduced a barangay ordinance establishing Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO) in her barangay (village) community.

During the Consortium, new Community Support Group (CSG) chapters were established, in the cities of Mandaluyong and Malabon, respectively.  CSGs are composed of parents of CWDs, barangay health workers, teachers, and other volunteers/ stakeholders..

Dave Tabaniag, publicly read a manifesto declaring support for Inclusive Education in the Philippines, which was signed by all the participants.

Among the salient points during the discussion was the importance of a local support mechanism, called the Community Support Groups (CSGs) for the successful implementation of the Inclusive Education Initiative. The participation of community volunteers, teachers, parents, health workers, local government unit officials and politicians, was emphasized during the discussions. That is why there is an urgent need for the formation of core groups in the areas where Inclusive Education intends to be actively involved. And along side with this is the urgent need for the engagement with various local stakeholders at the communities.

Report from Dave Tabianag