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Today, 5 October is World Teachers Day as declared by UNESCO. And I write this note to give a tribute to teachers specifically those I met in the Inclusion Caravan workshops. For three years now, I have the opportunity to work as a co-facilitator of the Caravan in delivering workshops geared at increasing the understanding and capacity of mainstream school teachers on inclusive education strategies for children with disabilities.
For this year, we started the Caravan in August. We conduct school-based workshops for mainstream teachers in public elementary and secondary schools. The workshops provide a platform for teachers to share their experiences – successes and challenges – in accommodating children with disabilities in their classrooms. And I am fascinated to observe these three qualities teachers show during the Caravan workshops:
A lot of teachers we interacted with expressed their willingness to accommodate all children regardless of their situations. This willingness is based on their belief that every child has the right to go to school closest to his or her home. A teacher shared, ‘Aside from the fact that inclusive education is a law, I have the moral obligation to fulfill the right to every child to go to school and learn’.
The willingness of teacher we interacted has inspired them to be creative, despite no training on inclusive education strategies, in ensuring that children with disabilities learn. I am amazed how teachers, especially those in remote areas, manage to use local resources to teach children with disabilities. One of them shared that she uses tree twigs and stones to let her blind student learn to count through touch.
she uses tree twigs and stones to let her blind student learn to count through touch.
I admire how teachers we met were honest with their own limitations in accommodating children with disabilities. While it is true that a lot of them have the willingness and creativity to go the distance, they need further support from the government. One teacher shared, ‘I hope that we, teachers, will get the support we deserve to further motivate us to accommodate children with disabilities. Sometimes, the process can be lonely. It is good if there is a system that hears our needs and supports us moving forward’.
As a result of these three qualities, the teachers we met were able to produce children with disabilities who are now in higher education levels, or are now working and employed.
My salute to all teachers, especially mainstream school teachers, who have the strong commitment for their work. Thank you for allowing children with and without disabilities to learn together. Thank you for opening your doors for children oftentimes excluded from the education system.
Featured image © jensm.
Geraldine is a teacher by training. Based in Calatrava, Negros Occidental, Philippines, she supports the Inclusion Caravan as a co-facilitator. She has family members with disabilities who inspire her to support disability-related programs in her community. Geraldine had years of experience as a government official and is interested in visual arts and networking.