Education as an equalizer

From Atty. Liza D. Corro, Chancellor of UP Cebu —

I agree with your advocacy in pushing education for PWDs. I am a great believer that education is the great equaliser. More so if one has disabilities, it will be an asset if this person will be equipped with an education, for it will compensate for this person’s inadequacies. As to the strategy how to “mainstream” and accomplish an inclusive education, I have some thoughts on how it should be implemented.

In UP, we are very particular in being able to provide access to education, that no one is denied access, regardless of gender, race, disability, income or for other reasons which may be invoked. Which is why our admission process is designed in such a way that there are “affirmative” actions which can offset or compensate for the disadvantages that a person or entrant may have to a UP education.

But the sad reality is, resources is not limitless. As you have rightly stated, our school budget cannot even cover all of the mainstream students that need to be taught. Currently we have several buildings being constructed in order to accommodate more students, but to maintain these would entail higher budget for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) which becomes then a priority in terms of budget allocation. I truly admire LGUs which are able to set up facilities for PWDs, including its educational component, like the one I know in Lapulapu City called STAC which stands for timulation and Therapeutic Activity Center. It is facilities like this which truly implements the mandate of Republic Act 7277 known as the “Magna Carta for Disabled Persons” which provides that the state shall adopt policies ensuring the rehabilitation, self-development and self reliance of persons with disabilities and their integration into the mainstream of society.

We try our best to accommodate PWDs, primarily like through provisions for ramps for access to buildings, which is quite basic for now. Equipment to assist students who are sight-impaired or hearing disabled, we do not have any of these. I am not aware of any of our faculty who would know how to handle students with such kind of disabilities, should they have them in their classes at this time. However, right now, we are conducting workshops and inviting resource speakers who can teach on how to manage such classes. This is intended to capacitate our teachers in holding inclusive education for PWDs and those who are differently-abled. Researches are also being funded to support how to make education really inclusive in UP.

In UP I like to believe that we are not saddled with such a mentality that disabled persons are a “curse”. Our students, faculty and staff are very tolerant and accepting with individual’s differences. The uniqueness and individuality of persons provides them strength. Right now, we are just constrained with lack of technical training and skills on how to manage differently abled people. I think right now, if resources are not yet available to accommodate our PWDs and the like, we can start off first with the mind set and other cultural hange. There are many who might be tolerant already with PWDs and other differently abled people, but there are still many who need to be made conscious. Simple thing as street signs and symbols and aids for sight-impaired people, we are not seeing them much being provided even in public places. Maybe if those who are implementors are made to feel that these are basic things which do not need much expense, but will be able to help a hundredfold PWDs, then these will be ingrained in their minds to give priority to things like this and lobby for them at the policy makers’ level. This can start off in the budget process, be it in the government and even in the private sector.

As to how to mainstream these PWDs especially through an inclusive education, I am not technically equipped to discuss this. But my thoughts on this, depending on the nature of the disability, the mainstreaming will have to vary. And a combination of immersions by a PWD in formal classes for both the differently abled as well as in regular classes, I think is a good way and beneficial for both PWD students as well as students in regular classes.

Educational institutions holding formal classes will have to consider everyone’s needs. Mainstreaming of PWDs and differently abled people to these formal regular classes will have to consider everyone’s capabilities, from the teacher in charge with the class and both the PWDs and differently abled as well as students in the regular classes. Each and everyone of them will be the best gauge on how the immersion had benefited them.

To end, I like to state that I am in favor of mainstreaming, for as long as it is beneficial to everyone. Institutions will do mainstreaming, not just for the sake of “mainstreaming” but because it will benefit everyone in such a set-up.

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