1.What is the situation like in Uganda for special needs children?
About 16% of Ugandan children have a disability, this suggests that most children with disabilities are not able to attend school and that learners with special needs fail to transition from one educational level to another. Only 5 percent of children with disabilities can access education through Inclusive Schools and 10% through special schools (UNICEF, 2014).
2. About how many special needs children in Uganda are accessing education?
According to the Ministry of Education and Sports (2017) some 9,597 pupils enrolled in pre-primary schools (1.6%) have impairments. The majority were children with ‘mental impairment’ (28%) followed by ‘hearing impairments’ (25%), ‘visual impairment’ (22%), ‘physical impairment’ (16%), ‘autism’ (5%) and ‘multiple handicaps-deaf and blind’ (4%).
There are 172,864 children with special needs in primary schools, which is 2.0% of total primary level enrollment and 9% of the overall children with special needs. Regarding the category of impairment, hearing (27.2%), mental (22.7%), visual (25.8%), and physical impairments (17.9%) constitute the percentages. More than half (52.6%) of the pupils with disabilities are males.
Out of 1,370,583 students enrolled in a secondary school in Uganda, 8,945 students (0.6%) have special learning needs. Visually impaired students comprise the largest share of these students, followed by those with physical disabilities. Pupils with autism and multiple handicaps were fewer among enrolled students. There is no data available on students with disabilities enrolled in universities and other tertiary institutions. There is an urgent need for such data to ensure equitable access to tertiary education.
3.What does the future look like for making sure education is accessible to all special needs children?
Government has been instrumental in promoting an inclusive education for all. Despite these efforts, challenges exist at all levels. Access is limited, and retention and quality are negatively affected by constraints ranging from a lack of physical capacity, infrastructure, and learning materials to inadequate teacher capacity and negative attitudes and stigma. Public financing for special needs education accounts for only 0.1% of the education sector budget. Most children with special needs are older than their classroom peers. This requires imparting more life and vocational training so that they can acquire appropriate skills for their self sustainability. SNE should emphasize vocational education and provision of the necessary human resource and special equipment and materials to support these children. Sign Language Interpreters should be employed on a permanent and pensionable basis.