The Network for Protection against Discrimination welcomes the commitment of the Ministry of Education and Science to overcome segregation of students with disabilities through their inclusion in regular education. We remind that the special schools represent segregation as a form of discrimination that is forbidden by the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination. However, we would like to point out that the draft-law on Elementary Education has serious disadvantages in terms of guarantees for the inclusion of students with disabilities in the regular education process and the manner of its implementation.
First of all, the law was adopted in a non-transparent and non-inclusive manner. The Ministry ignored the requirements and suggestions from the civil society organizations for protection against violence, discrimination and inclusion of children with disabilities. The draft law does not include a clear provision stipulating that children with disabilities will be enrolled in regular schools, thus, leaving room for this commitment not to be implemented or to be only partially implemented. There is a need for a clear and unambiguous legal guarantee that will provide legal certainty and concrete commitment for overcoming segregation of students with disabilities.
This draft-law excludes children with visual impairments from regular schools who only need assistive technology and adaptation of school facilities and there is no excuse not to include them in regular education. The focus of the special classes or the co-called Learning Support Centers, in the draft-law, runs counter to the commitment to include children with disabilities in regular schools replacing one form of segregation with another.
Additionally, the draft-law stipulates legal opportunity for the classes to be shorter for children with disabilities if provided for in the individual education plan. In given situations, the shorter duration of the class may be justified, but this question should not be regulated by law and treated as a rule, but rather an exception. The need for inclusion of children with disabilities in regular education is not based solely on the removal of physical segregation, but a key part of the problem is that instead of receiving more attention and support, education treats these children as less capable leaving them no opportunity to show their capacities and become competitive on the labor market. We call on the Assembly to conduct a transparent and inclusive process for adopting the Law through organizing a public debate, to take into consideration the comments of all interested parties and to advance this legislative solution through amendments.
Following the adaptation of the Law on Elementary Education, we call on the Ministry for Education and Science to properly plan the inclusion process of all interested parties, to pay attention to providing technical and human capacities for enabling conditions for successful inclusion by investing in education. We also call upon all stakeholders to use their capacity to advance the inclusion process rather than opposing it.
The project “LPPD under the microscope: Monitoring the Implementation of the new Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination” is funded by the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia. The contents are the sole responsibility of the authors and the grantees, and cannot be taken to reflect the views and positions of the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia.
—————————————————25 July 2019