By Liapeng Raliengoane

MASERU – Network of Early Childhood Development of Lesotho (NECDOL) says it is longing for inclusive schools.

This they said in a three-day workshop last week, dubbed “Promoting Inclusive Pre-primary Education in the SADC Region” which highlighted on inclusive reception classes in Lesotho and other countries in the SADC region.  This workshop by NECDOL and the Roger Federer Foundation was supported by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Lesotho.

In Lesotho, the programme started in June 2020 and is expected to reach at least 60 000 children in 800 institutions with reception classes.

According to NECDOL, in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.2, all countries committed to ensuring that all children have at least one year of structured learning, before they begin the first grade in primary school. However, some children have disabilities and other learning barriers that threaten their inclusion and optimal development in Reception Class. Some do not even get enrolled into Reception Class. For those children that are enrolled, they often encounter barriers to learning that exclude them from developing optimally.

It is in this regard that the Roger Federer Foundation’s School Readiness Initiative’s overall goal is to secure a good start into primary education for vulnerable children through access to quality reception class. In line with SDG 4.2, the Foundation focuses on ensuring that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education and this includes promoting inclusivity so that no child is left behind.

While presenting their work, Lesotho National League of the Visually Impaired Persons (LNLVIP) Representative Kopano Tšilonyane indicated that LNLVIP’s Inclusive Education program is meant to help the stakeholders in inclusive education understand the entrails of inclusion and be able to easily implement inclusiveness in line with their roles.

Tšilonyane said the program is implemented by holding capacity-building workshops to stakeholders such as community leaders, parents and caregivers, teachers, government officials as well as students via disability awareness raising assembly.

On the side of the National Association of the Deaf Lesotho (NADL), Radebe Mavuso Matsoso expressed that NADL formulates and implements policies that support education, for example, Inclusive Education Policy 2018, Free and Compulsory Education Policy, Education Act and Disability Equity Act 2021.

Matsoso said they also facilitate workshops for community leaders on their roles in advancement of Inclusive Education and about 97 community leaders in the districts of Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing and Mafeteng.

On another note, ‘Mafumane Makhele from the Intellectual Disability & Autism Lesotho (IDAL) mentioned that the challenges they come across entail: negative attitudes, stigma and discrimination by community members, cultural barriers related to disability, physical and environmental barriers where buildings in schools are not accessible to the all disabled people and institutional barriers.

NECDOL is a non-profit voluntary association of individuals, organizations and institutions who have come together to pursue the same objectives aimed at the overall well-being of young children.