5.5 million learners with disabilities at risk of falling behind, group warns

Published September 17, 2021, 12:38 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

A child rights organization warned that millions of Filipino learners with disabilities now at a greater risk of falling behind in education due to the challenges brought by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

(Photo from Save the Children Philippines)

Save the Children Philippines said that 5.5 million Filipino learners with disabilities “already have limited access to quality and inclusive education” even before the pandemic.

Thus, the group is reiterating its call for the immediate approval of the Bicameral Committee version of the Inclusive Education (IE) Bill for Learners with Disabilities – especially as the School Year (SY) 2021-2022 opened this week.

Citing policy brief “A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19” by the United Nations Sustainable Development Group, the group noted that the top concern of children with disabilities include accessing education (51.8 percent) and child development services (50.7 percent).

The IE Bill, which is advocated by Save the Children Philippines and partners, was approved on 3rd Reading in the House of Representatives in December 2020 and in the Senate last May 2021.

Through the IE bill, the group said that learners with disabilities – who have not had early childhood and basic education services – will also receive support through the Child Find System.

The system will identify and facilitate their inclusion in learning programs while their parents will be provided with a support system to ensure that they can confidently aid their children’s welfare and learning at home.

Meanwhile, parents of children with disabilities also wrote letters to President Duterte and government officials to support the call for the immediate approval of the IE Bill.

In a letter, Jenny (not her real name), a mother of a child with disability from Paranaque, urged the President to pass the IE Bill to ensure that all children can learn. “Makakatulong po ito para sa tulad naming nagpapalaki ng mga batang may disability (This will help for those of us who raise children with disabilities),” she said.

*Jenny said that while all children have the right to education, not all children have enough resources and capacity to do so, but the IE bill can address the gaps.

*Nita, mother of a child with disability, also shared in her letter the importance of inclusive education and support for parents to learn sign language and other skills enhancement trainings in supporting the needs of their children.

“Sumasang-ayon din po ako sa IE bill para mas makatulong sa mga taong may kapansanan upang may karapatan din silang habang nabubuhay at may karapatan silang sumaya at di na sila nilalait o binu-bully ng iba (I also agree with the IE bill to better help people with disabilities so that they also have the right as long as they live and they have the right to be happy and not be insulted or bullied by others),” she added.

The IE Bill seeks to provide learners with disabilities access to public and private schools, support services and capacity building to students, their families/ caregivers, and teachers, including the establishment of Inclusive Learning Resource Centers (ILRC) that will serve as knowledge hubs.

“Our inclusive education Kabataang Aralin sa Lahat Ibahagi (KASALI) project has seen the long-lasting positive impact it can make if the parents, school, and community are provided with enough skills in supporting children with disabilities, and through the IE bill this can also be achieved for the millions of Filipino children with disabilities,” added Save the Children Philippines Basic Education Advisor Sierra Mae Paraan.