No child should be left behind when it comes to education — Deputy Education Minister

Teo interacts with a special needs student during her visit to SJK Bintawa.

By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, April 4: Only 14 per cent of children with special needs are registered in government schools nationwide. Hence, there is an urgent need to raise awareness of their right to education.

Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said no child should be left behind when it comes to education, particularly children with disabilities.

The Education Ministry has embarked on its Zero Reject Policy this year to ensure special needs children have access to education, whether through the Integrated Special Education Programme (PPKI) or Inclusive Education Programme (PPI) in mainstream classes.

“We can’t rule out that there are reasons that led to some children with disabilities not having access to education. Social stigma (for instance) could contribute to children not being sent to school.

“Some parents fear for their children’s safety, ability to cope with the studies and socialising with other students. This is where awareness programmes and publicity plays an important role,” she told reporters after visiting the PPKI at SJK Bintawa here today.

Teo said parents needed to be aware of the types of educational programmes on offer to help disabled children with their studies, be it special education schools or the PPKI and PPI programmes.

This year, the Education Ministry allocated RM142 million in special allowance for special needs students, who will receive RM150 per month to aid their schooling needs.

As at Jan 31 this year, Teo said 83,039 students have registered for special education programmes in government schools, including over 5,000 in Sarawak.

She added that 147 students in the state enrolled in special education schools, while 4,432 attended PPKI. The other 590 were absorbed in PPI.

There are 175 schools with PPKI across the state, involving 123 primary schools and 52 secondary schools. In the whole country, there are 1,545 primary schools and 830 secondary schools with PPKI.

“We are encouraging parents to send their special needs children to school. At the same time, we urge parents to support the teachers and school administration to create a disabled-friendly environment.

“The ministry is committed to ensure special needs students have access to quality, holistic education. Given the opportunity, proper guidance and conducive learning environment, these students can excel in their studies,” she stressed.

Teo interacts with a special needs student during her visit to SJK Bintawa.

Teo said the Education Ministry was also committed to training more teachers for special education. The government will also collaborate with Permata Kurnia on the matter.

The ministry is also looking to introduce online courses to help special education teachers, especially those teaching in PPI mainstream classes,

“Face-to-face training can be time-consuming. The online courses can provide basic knowledge to teachers on how to handle special needs students in their classrooms,” she added.

During the visit, Teo announced a RM10,000 allocation to improve facilities and amenities for SJK Bintawa PPKI centre. The school currently has 33 students enrolled in PPKI and five in PPI.

Meanwhile, Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said the federal government had allocated RM43,000 to set up the Bilik Kemahiran for SJK Bintawa PPKI to train special needs students with basic life skills, including cooking.

The funds were channelled through Stampin MP Chong Chieng Jen, who is also Deputy Minister for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs. — DayakDaily