There 777 children with Special Education Needs (SEN) in 20 schools as of this year. 90 percent of the students in SEN do not have smartphones. About 7 percent have it and rest of them depends on their parents and guardians to get connected with their teachers.
An official from Ministry of Education (MoE) said the ministry has done an informal quick inventory in schools and found that almost all students with disabilities do not have devices such as smartphones. They are depending solely on their parents and their family members to get connected. As device and connectivity is a challenge for them, therefore, MoE has already asked donor agencies for help in purchasing the smartphones.
In the meantime, teachers are struggling to keep in contact with the student as they can only be reached via their guardians’ and parents’ phones. Teachers are able to contact the children only when their parents or guardians are at home in the evening.
The ministry would ideally want to provide the SEN students with compatible smartphones each so the teachers can contact them on time. “Teachers can at least give guidance and keep them engaged in their basic learning,” said the MoE official.
He said the lessons taught through television do have some educational tips and some learning for the children with special educational needs. But sometimes they need additional explanations or more simplified instructions. The content prepared for general students need more simplified instructions for these children.
For example, the big concepts like mathematics may not work or be easy for the students of special education to understand. While in the classroom, teachers will simplify and modify the questions. They identify the abilities of the individual children and they are supported in the classroom, he added.
SEN coordinators in 20 schools are providing adapted and customized learning materials to them. They are also post lessons on WeChat, Messenger and other social media platforms. The respective SEN coordinators, subject teachers are trying to reach SEN students and their parents so as to impart basic learning tips and to keep them engage.
Parents or guardians of children with severe difficulties are requested to demonstrate the simple things and keep these children intact with the daily living skills, like washing, helping their parents or family members in cooking, keeping with the movement and maintaining their hygiene and encouraging them in small ways.
Currently, there are no dedicated classes for the SEN students but children are attending the current TV broadcast with their parents and trying to get information. The children also follow up with their teachers for further information. Visually impaired students also need additional explanations to understand most lessons. The teachers at Wangsel Institute are designing their own method of teaching the children hearing impairment.
“The ministry has received feedback from the teachers, students and parents. Students say that they are not able to understand as they are not used to with learning from the television,” said the MoE official, adding that the children are distracted and some do not have televisions at all in the rural parts.
He said without having the reliable facilities and understanding the situation in emergency, children are not demanded to do too much or else there will huge gap and everyone will be pressurized.
Children needing medical assistive devices can visit the nearest hospital and health services to them for help.
Education Minister, JB Rai, said with the introduction of e-Learning in the country has brought up several challenges. There are already big challenges for general students to learn through e-Learning and there is much bigger challenges for the SEN students.
Lyonpo JB Rai said children with hearing disability can learn through sign language but children with vision problem will have greater challenges. However, the ministry is working to deliver lessons in a way that best suits the leaners.
Although some families have multiple televisions, smartphones and other gadgets, there are still challenges faced by them. If a family has more than two kids, one TV or one smartphone is not enough often resulting in disparity, he pointed out.
“Among all the challenges, the most important is Internet Service Provider (ISP),” Lyonpo said, adding that there needs to be a second Internet gateway just to mitigate the demand from the nation. He said there will more than 0.2 million subscribers using at a time. Almost 7,000 to 8,000 students are coming from outside, and they will also be using the Internet services as well to be in touch with their institutions.
Lyonpo said if the situation is stable in the next two months then the normal classes are to resume. The ministry will do away with the summer vacation and Saturdays off. The classes will get back to normal if everybody comes together and works on it. However, the primary focus is the health of the children, Lyonpo said.