Breaking down barriers to inclusive education in Lesotho
Girls with disabilities experience serious inequalities in terms of access to inclusive education due to lack of accessible schools in Lesotho.
School physical infrastructure poses a huge problems to girls with disabilities. Most of the toilets if not all in the schools are inaccessible for the wheelchair users. Girls with disabilities are at the risk of being assaulted by the people who carry them to access toilets. This practice on its own violates the self-esteem of these girls as they should always inform their assistants whenever they want to go to toilets. These girls do not access water and sanitation properly because of the inaccessible infrastructures presented to them in the schools, meaning, they lack access to water and sanitation culminating into poor health conditions for girls with disabilities. This situation makes them to drop out of the schools because they feel in dignified and de humanised because they always have to be assisted by their schoolmates whenever they may want to use the toilet.
Studies indicate that, people with disabilities in Africa are more likely to be from economically challenged families. As a result the families with girls with disabilities do not have money to meet their basic needs. They drop out of school as a result of the lack of family funds. Many parents have to spend a lot of money to take the girls with disabilities to better and more inclusive and accessible schools in Maseru as the rural schools are worst in terms of provision of reasonable accommodations in Lesotho.
Some teachers instruct able bodied pupils to isolate girls with disabilities in the inclusive schools so that the parents of a girl with disability may be left with no option but to withdraw the girl from the school. I dealt with the cases of discrimination of learners with disabilities in which teachers persuaded the able bodied pupils not to play with children with disabilities. The experience is that girls with disabilities are more vulnerable than boys with disabilities in terms of resisting the discriminatory practices against them.
Also, specific challenges facing girls with disabilities relates to witchcraft. Girls with disabilities are regarded to be “bewitched” in the communities in which they live. There is stigma and discrimination experienced by girls with disabilities in the inclusive education settings of Lesotho.
In terms of gender, girls with disabilities experience more barriers than boys with disabilities in the inclusive education settings. They are associated with inability and continue to face attitudinal and environmental barriers in the communities in which they live.
- The Government of Lesotho budget for the modification of the toilets and classrooms at the schools so as to enable girls with disabilities to access education.
- Teacher training colleges should have a full-fledged inclusive education courses to enable teachers to handle girls with disabilities properly in the inclusive settings.
- The Government of Lesotho must develop and adopt inclusive education policy which takes into account the special circumstances of the needs of girls with disabilities.
- The Government of Lesotho must conduct disability rights awareness activities among the schools to reduce negative attitudes towards girls with disabilities.