The Ministry of Education (MoE) will hand over 748 tablets to 744 students in 23 schools with Special Education Needs (SEN), including three new inclusive schools before the second term this year. The tablets were purchased with monetary support of about Nu 12 million (mn) by Save the Children under the project Global Partnership of Education’s (GPE) COVID-19 accelerated fund and Nu 1.8 mn under the Helvetas funding.
Wangsel Institute will receive the highest number, 104 tablets, from the ministry. The inclusive schools in the southern dzongkhags will have their tablets delivered to them as soon as the COVID- 19 protocol and restrictions are eased.
Chief Program Officer of ECCD and SEN, Sherub Phuntshok, said the support rendered is very timely because whenever any kind of pandemic hits, the hardest hit are children with disabilities. They are further marginalized. So one of the interventions to provide the services is through the provision of the assistive technology.
The smartphones and tablets are much needed equipment for online learning. And if the lockdown happens in future, children with disabilities will not face problems in learning, he added. There may be a little bit of issues, but with these assistive devices, most of the issues and problems will be solved.
He also said that using the tablets for learning may not be as effective as face-to-face learning, but it is hoped that the student disparity in educational access will be largely reduced. This will also ensure that children can meaningfully engage with the assistive devices for maximum learning.
Students with visual impairments who rely on Braille and audio/speech-related products are being provided with smartphones with good storage, and tablets for other students with disabilities.
With Education in Emergency (EIE) being delivered mostly using the online platforms, students with special needs without immediate educational support adapted to their needs find it doubly difficult to access online learning. To address such issues of educational access, provision of tablets for home-based learning is proposed for pre-primary to class X students with special needs.
The Chief Program Officer said the SEN division conducted a survey, and the findings was that the inclusive schools expressed if students could be given smartphones and tablets, so accordingly, the ministry put up the proposal.
Meanwhile, children with disabilities are mostly from the rural parts of the country, and most of them are from poor economic backgrounds. The chief said the government supports the Inclusive and Special Education Program, but it is still inadequate to meet basic needs in the schools. Every year allocated budget has to be divided to 20 inclusive schools, which are not enough.