“The true measure of every society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”.
The inclusion of children and youth with special needs is obstructed with academic, economic, and cultural barriers that often prevent them from exercising their rights to education, building a career, or in its simplest form, building a social life. These barriers are illustrated through the lack of inclusive curricula, discriminative admission policies, increased tuition fees for special education, absence of educator motivation and capacity building, and many more. From a legal standpoint, law 220/2000 denotes an essential step towards ensuring the rights and autonomy of individuals with special needs, however, lacks the needed implementation mechanisms and revisions 23 years after being issued.
Alongside providing assessments and therapy sessions by a multidisciplinary team at two specialized centers in Mansourieh and Zouk Mosbeh, SKILD emphasizes the importance of being present in public and private schools across Lebanon as early intervention is key to a successful inclusion model. The inclusion model in schools does not only benefit learners with challenges, but also creates in their peers tolerant characters who will accept diversity and project it to the future society in which they will be the core. Mirroring an inclusive culture that will organically replicate itself in universities, the job market, and community groups, naturally begins on a school level.
One of the many activities that SKILD is doing in partner schools, alongside specialized interventions and capacity building, is raising awareness on the level of learners to accept diversity. Each child thrives in their own environment and in their own way. As we come close to the National Day for Students with Learning Difficulties, SKILD, through the support of UNICEF, distributed story kits in the inclusive classrooms of our partner schools to encourage differentiating learning within one setting. Together, we can make sure that all children receive education, just not on the same day and not in the same way!
SKILD co-launched the National Day for Students with Learning Difficulties in collaboration with the British Council and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. It is an event that is now celebrated on April 22 of every year through seminars, conferences, and awareness raising events.
The next natural frontier – after embarking on journeys with parents, educators, in schools, and higher education – is inclusion in the workplace to make sure that following securing the right of every child with special needs to education, he/she also exercises his/her right to work. Let us together change the common understanding of “survival of the fittest” and transform it to “survival of the weakest” to model a tolerant community. Together, we can make sure that every child with special needs grows up to be an independent productive citizen.