Access to quality education remains a challenge for students with disabilities, despite the country’s focus on inclusivity and diversity. The Special Educational Needs, SEN, the programme provides hope for these students to learn and grow in an environment that caters to their specific needs. However, at the Sonamgang Primary School in Phuentshogling, limited disabled-friendly facilities pose significant challenges for both teachers and students.
Sonamgang Primary School has been providing education for students with disabilities for more than a month. The Special Educational Needs programme has been relocated to Sonamgang School from Phuentshogling Middle Secondary School for this academic year.
“The SEN program has been relocated to Sonamgang School because it is more accommodating for students with disabilities. The decision was based on the fact that Sonamgang School has toilets inside the academic block, making it more convenient. We discussed the matter with parents and made the move accordingly,” said Tshewang, the Principal of Sonamgang Primary School.
School officials also cited the proximity of the hospital as another reason for shifting the programme to Sonamgang School.
However, despite the move, the lack of facilities remains an issue.
“There is a requirement for at least five classrooms to cater to students with disabilities, but currently, we only have two classrooms available. As a solution, we are planning to partition the existing rooms. However, there are still challenges with the toilets, where the doors are too narrow for wheelchairs to pass through, and there are no railings or ramps available,” added the Principal.
“While this school is a slight improvement over the previous one, the facilities for the SEN programme are almost nonexistent, as the school was initially built for mainstream education and not specifically for students with disabilities. Consequently, there are no ramps or railings available at this time,” said Passang Sherpa, a parent.
“Numerous facilities are needed that require attention. While my child with Down Syndrome can walk independently, there are other students who have more severe disabilities. Unfortunately, the school lacks even a basic facility like a ramp, making it difficult for students with disabilities to access the classrooms and other areas of the school,” said Deki, another parent.
The shortage of human resources to teach students with disabilities is yet another challenge. At present, there are only five special education teachers to cater to nearly 25 students with disabilities.
In response to the pressing need for facilities, the officiating thromde education officer said that the Thromde Education Sector held an emergency meeting recently and agreed to construct all necessary facilities within the current financial year.
Additionally, they are planning to build an integrated SEN building as part of the next five-year plan.
Kinley Dem, Phuentshogling
Edited by Sherub Dorji
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