There are no specialized teachers for effective teaching
The only inclusive school in Thimphu, Changangkha Middle Secondary School (CMSS), is in need of specialized teachers and a separate budget for the education of the special needs students.
The Principal of CMSS, Nyendo, said the school does not have a separate budget required to purchase appropriate teaching materials, facilities and equipment for the special needs classes. The school has to also spend money in something as small but necessary as lamination of the chart papers so that the children do not tear them off or even eat it. He said it is expensive to run such an inclusive school.
He pointed out that some special needs students cannot use normal toilets. “They need to have toilets which suit them – accessible toilets for them, which is not in the school,” Principal Nyendo said.
There are many challenges faced by the school, teachers and the special needs children, he added.
The biggest challenge is the lack of specialized teachers. “There are eight types of disabilities among the 63 children, and not even one teacher is specialized in any particular disability,” stated the principal.
However, there are 11 trained teachers with basic knowledge and language skills in handling issues and taking care of the special needs children.
Nyendo said the main objective of having such an inclusive school with special needs program is to include the many children with disabilities in the locality “There should be a school or an institute where these children with disabilities should be supported and admitted. That is why an inclusive school was started in 2003,” he said.
The school aims to change the mindset of the people who think children with disabilities cannot mingle with the other students in the school.
However, the principal said it is not only the school but there should be multi-sectorial support that is required. There are 18 Special Education Need (SEN) schools across the country.
CMSS has admitted 63 students with 8 types of disabilities ranging from mild to severe. There are 14 students with Cerebral Palsy, 6 students have the Down Syndrome. There are 10 students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, 8 are diagnosed with Intellectual Disability. 20 students with Learning Difficulty, 3 students with Speech & Language Impairment, 1 student with Attention Deficient Hyper Disorder (ADHD), and 1 student with Multiple Disorder.
Currently, CMSS has 911 students in total. The school has PULL IN classes and PUSH IN classes and also pre-vocational classes, health and physical classes, cultural, and gardening classes catered to special needs students. Timely coaching classes and help to socialize are also provided.
“This year we started pre-vocational services. Under this, we have divided pre-vocational into four parts; they are laundry, cooking, tailoring and arts and craft. There are around 20 children who cannot take academics because they are cognitively challenged. Each student can master those skills. One day, they will lead their life in that particular skill so that they do not have to depend on others,” said Nyendo.
According to the school, admission of children with severe needs was denied earlier, but now CMSS takes in students with severe disabilities, with the objective to help them lead a normal life.
“It is not a problem with the child – it is a problem with disability. We are self-contained in the school where we do not give them skills classes nor do we have different curriculum classes for them, but we teach how to live their life. For example, learning to eat by themselves, using bathroom on their own,” said the principal.
The parents of the children with serve disabilities also help out the teachers, even in the classroom. There are 10 students in a self-contained category.
The school had earlier provided justification and safety assurance to the parents of normal students sharing the school premises and classrooms with the special needs students. According to the Principal, this kind of convincing and understanding between the parents and school took some time and effort.
As of now, the intake of children with disabilities is increasing every year, mainly because the parents are now aware of the services the school provides. Although there is a huge pressure on the admission, however, the school has admitted all the 14 children who sought admission this year.10 of them are studying in PP and four are in other classes.
By the age of 16, the special needs children transit to other institutions, like Draktsho Vocational Training Centre for Special Children and Youth. So far, 18 children from the school have gone on to other institutions.