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This content is taken from the University of Cape Town's online course, Education for All: Disability, Diversity and Inclusion . Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Thank you for joining us. And I hope that you’re going to enjoy doing this course as much as we have enjoyed developing it. My name is Judith McKenzie, and I have worked in the field of inclusive education for over 20 years, from when it was just beginning to developing inclusive education policies in South Africa, and now being involved in the implementation of these policies. I work in the disability studies programme at the University of Cape Town, where I convene the post graduate diploma in disability studies, and I supervise masters and doctoral students, while also conducting my own research.

Skip to 0 minutes and 43 seconds I love my work, and I relish this opportunity to share with you some of these ideas that are so important to me. But it’s not only through my work that I have developed my interest in inclusive education. I have three children, the youngest of whom has Down syndrome. And I have observed the barriers that he has encountered in accessing quality education, as well as the successes that he has experienced. It has made me aware of the importance of community partnerships that are supportive of children, families, teachers, and schools, as they all have their bit to contribute. So I come in here really wearing two hats – that of a parent and that of a researcher and teacher.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 seconds I like to think that this gives me a holistic understanding of the topic. In developing this course, we have been very fortunate to draw on the knowledge and experience of a wide range of people, most of them linked to the University of Cape Town. So now you have some idea about who we are. And you might wonder why we are doing this course. I think what all of the presenters share is an understanding of diversity. We understand that across the world people are often discriminated against because they are in some way different to others. This may be on the grounds of race, gender, religion, nationality, class or any number of other features.

Skip to 2 minutes and 12 seconds But we often don’t think about disability as one aspect of diversity that leads to exclusion and discrimination. It seems to some that disability is a fixed condition that needs medical or charitable help. But we will emphasise that disability is actually the social status that is created and maintained by barriers in society. So while we recognise and understand that all types of exclusion and discrimination need to be addressed, and that much of this can be done in inclusive education, we make a special effort to highlight inclusive education as a way to address the issues that disabled people face.

Skip to 2 minutes and 54 seconds It’s only recently that people have started to question whether it is helpful to send disabled children to different, special schools way from their able-bodied peers, and to start looking at ways that they can get the support that they need in regular schools. In this course, we direct our teaching toward low and middle income countries. There’s sometimes the argument that inclusive education is all very well and good, but it requires a lot of additional resources, and is therefore only feasible for rich countries. In this course, we argue for a different perspective. We note that almost 2/3 of children that are out of school in low to middle income countries are disabled.

Skip to 3 minutes and 35 seconds The idea that they need different and special education is keeping many disabled children out of school. This is not to say that these children don’t have special educational needs, and we are definitely not advocating for children with disabilities to be placed in schools without any support. But we are saying that it is very important to make use of community resources to make schools welcoming, supportive, and inclusive. We accept that this is not always easy.

Skip to 4 minutes and 7 seconds And that is why we are offering this course, so that you as teachers, parents, or in whatever role you have undertaken this course, can begin to recognise the potential and the contribution of people with disabilities, and work to create an inclusive environment in schools before patterns of exclusion and discrimination are established. I will now hand over to Chioma Ohajunwa to introduce herself. She will be your guide throughout the course, introducing and concluding our weekly sessions, and helping you to navigate through the learning process. Enjoy the ride.

Disability, Diversity and Inclusion

Millions of children around the world are not in school - often because they are judged to be too different. For children, the right to education has been recognised as one of the essential parts of becoming fully part of society. The basis of the exclusion may be gender, race, social class, ethnicity, nationality, religion or disability. In this course, we’ll be looking specifically at disability and how disabled children are excluded from schooling. We argue that an inclusive schooling system not only makes sense for disabled children, but it also has a profound and important effect on the wider community in which it is located.

As an educator and researcher in the field of disability, and the mother to a disabled child, I am passionate about inclusion and the rights of the child. To be included in society is a basic desire of everyone. Yet despite our efforts, many children are still excluded, as can be seen in this video depicting the situation in South Africa - we therefore need everybody contributing to making inclusion happen!

During the next six weeks, we invite you to join in discussions about what inclusion can look like in your environment. What immediate steps are possible, even if there are no big budgets or specially trained facilitators? How can you incorporate a wide diversity of learners in your own classroom or school, and still enhance your teaching and learning process? Ask questions and offer suggestions; share experiences and pose problems. We want this space to be useful to anyone who is frustrated by the barriers to learning that face our children.

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This video is from the free online course:

Education for All: Disability, Diversity and Inclusion

University of Cape Town