1.1. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Educating special needs children in schools or classrooms means inclusion, mainstreaming, integration or normalization. Special education environment attempts to educate special needs children and adults in the same schools or classroom setting alongside the so- called normal children. The call for special education or mainstreaming came as a result of the excluding nature of the life of people with special needs. All people have a right to education. Special education is an approach that ensures the presence, participation and achievement of all students in education. This may be in formal schools, or in non-formal places of learning, such as extra-curricular clubs and humanitarian camps. It often involves working to change the structures, systems, policies, practices and cultures in schools and other institutions responsible for education, so that they can respond to the diversity of students in their locality. Inclusion emphasizes opportunities for equal participation, but with options for special assistance and facilities as needed, and for differentiation, within a common learning framework (Sightsavers, 2011). The concept of special education includes all learners, but it may be interpreted differently according to the context. For example, while it covers children excluded on the basis of language, gender, ethnicity, disability and other factors, it can focus on children with disabilities only. At the same time, children may be affected by more than one issue. A child with disabilities may also speak the language of a minority ethnic group, or be a refugee, or, if she is a girl, her family and society may not value girls‘education. According to LCD (2012), making schools special for boys and girls with disabilities improves them for all learners, including students facing exclusion because of other challenges, or more than one issue. According to UNESCO (2012), Inclusion is:
Special education is, by definition, the full integration of learners with and without special needs into the same classrooms and schools and thereby exposing them to the same learning opportunities. Ahmad (2000) defined special education as the education of all children and young people with and without disabilities or difficulties in learning together in ordinary pre-primary schools, colleges, and universities with appropriate network support. Okwudire and Okechukwu (2008) saw special education as the progressive increase in the participation of students, in reduction of their exclusion from the cultures, curricula, and communities of local schools. Okwudire and Okechukwu (2008) further explained that with special education, all students in a school regardless of their strength or weakness in any area become part of the school community. It is a place where children are seen as equal members of the classroom without being marginalized. Nigeria, in 1993, made a decree for the provision of special education with clear and comprehensive legal protection and security backing, yet due to governmental policies and cultural constrains, such decree did not succeed. This is a big problem for most special education and non-special education school administrators in Nigerian. The notion of special education was initially thought to be a concept in Nigerian educational system. However, special education has since then witnessed some tremendous improvements in the last decade despite cultural, social-economic, and political constraints (Eskay, 2009; Oluigbo, 2009). Special education was one of the major issues examined at the 12th Annual National Conference of the National Council for Exceptional Children held at Minna, Niger State, in August, 2002. In the keynote address presented at the conference, Tim Obani (one of the pioneers in special education in the country), argued, "The old special education system with its restrictive practices cannot successfully address these problems [of special needs children] (Garuba, 2013).These improvements began from the provision of Section 8 of the National Policy on Education since 1970’s and have provided support mechanisms for children with disabilities. Because of governmental policies and cultural constraints, special education did not witness series of advocacies, litigations, and legislations, as it was observed in large scale societies like the United States of America, which resulted in the establishment of legal mechanism to meet the needs of children with disabilities in a special setting. An indication is the promulgation of PL (public law) 99-457 which, to a large extent, addresses special education concerns of young children.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Over the years, the gap between educational policies and goal attainment due to inadequate implementation of these policies has become of great concern to many observers. The paper is interested in identifying the implementation constraints and to explore the implications of poor educational policy implementation for national development, clarifying the causes, effects of poor policy on special education practices and implementation in Nigeria. One of the goals of education in Nigeria is to provide equal opportunities for all including those with special needs. A policy on special education demands that children with special needs be incorporated in regular schools. However, despite the progress in providing quality special education to children with special needs, challenges such as inadequate resources, negative attitude and believes towards children with disabilities as well as rigid school curriculum hinder effective implementation of special education. Effective implementation of special education in Port Harcourt L.G.A is a matter of concern. There is need to determine the effects of national policy on the status of implementation of Special Education in terms of staffing, availability of teaching/learning materials and equipment and the general attitude towards special education.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The major purpose of this study is to examine the effects of national policy on special education practices and implementation. Other general objectives of the study are:
1. To examine the nature of special Education in Nigeria.
2. To examine the educational achievements in line with special education in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
3. To examine the effects of national policy on special education practices and implementation in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
4. To examine the factors that made the implementation of national policies in special education difficult in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
5. To examine the relationship between national policy and special education in Nigeria.
6. To examine the strategies that can be adopted to ensure better policy implementation in special education in port Harcourt, Rivers state.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. What is the nature of special Education in Nigeria?
2. What are the educational achievements in line with special education in Port Harcourt, Rivers state?
3. What are the effects of national policy on special education practices and implementation in Port Harcourt, Rivers state?
4. What are the factors that made the implementation of national policies in special education difficult in Port Harcourt, Rivers state?
5. What is the relationship between national policy and special education in Nigeria?
6. What are the strategies that can be adopted to ensure better policy implementation in special education in Port Harcourt, Rivers state?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
H0: National policy does not influence special education practices and implementation in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
H1: National policy significantly influences special education practices and implementation in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The result of this study will be significant in a number of ways. It will be beneficial to instructors and participants of special education programmes. The findings of this study shall help the community and the government to see the actual picture on school participation by children with special needs. The study shall help planners to identify gaps in the implementation of special education policy in order to make necessary policy changes. Consequently the recommendation and findings of the study shall help parents and the society to see the need to embrace special education in order to give children with special needs opportunity to learn. Educating children with special needs enables those persons who would have been dependants are independent with improved living standards. The findings of the study will be an eye opener to those in government because it will help change their view of special education as a disorganized programme. It will give them an insight into the real role special education plays in sustainable development. This will help them pay better attention to special education and probably give special education equal status with other types of education. This they can do through adequate funding and management of special education programmes and through policy review. It will be significant to special education curriculum developers. Knowledge of the extent of the utilization of special education in sustainable development will enable the curriculum developers determine how far special education has succeeded in its quest for development. This will help them review the curriculum in relevant areas where they are deficient and also design new curriculum, as the case may be, to facilitate the use of adult education in development. The study will also be significant to policy makers. It will enable them critically look at the current policy on special education and determine the need to make the policy more relevant and stronger than it is at present. Finally, it will be useful to the general public because it will help change the wrong image people have about special education. They will know the role of special education in development and accord the support needed to make special education grow.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study is based on the effects of national policy on special education practices and implementation, a case study of Port Harcourt L.G.A, Rivers state.
1.8 LIMITATION OF STUDY
Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.9 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Education: Any society without education obviously goes into extinction. Societies and its development efforts are remembered today by reason of educational system handed down from generation to generation. Education therefore is defined as a process whereby societies transmit acceptable values, skills, attitudes, knowledge etc to the young ones from generation to generation towards achieving quality life for the person in particular and the society at large.
Special Needs Persons: Special needs persons are so called by reasons of their uniqueness. They are special because, they suffer from undesirable consequences arising from natural and accidental incapacitations. These disabilities diminish the ability of the persons to perform optimally. These persons are grossly disadvantaged, discriminated against and rejected. They are the children in school who by their obvious handicaps cannot perform well at school. Children who are denied education as a result of their disabilities and children whose mental and physical impairment makes their education difficult. It is on that note that they are given special attention and educational provisions different from other children.
Policies on Special Education: Policies generally refers to any plan of action drawn by a person, group of persons or government to carry out a task. Policy on special education therefore is the plan of action of government to educate special needs persons in the society. In that regard, one unique policy of government on special education is to provide adequate education for all people with special needs in order that they may fully contribute their own quota to the development of the nation (FRN 2008).
Special Education: Special education programme is educational programmes designed by government to integrate in a particular school both able and disable persons, with the same curriculum and supervised by the general teachers. Under this education system, considerations are also given to the size and ages of these students in such schools. This is a way of addressing perceived separation and discrimination often faced by special needs children.
OTHER SIMILAR EDUCATION PROJECTS AND MATERIALS