News - The Star
Educate public on rights of the disabled
SEVERAL articles recently highlighted children with special needs (“Teacher under probe” – Sunday Star, April 13; “The caged boy of Sanglang” – The Star, April 17).
In Ipoh, a Down Syndrome boy was caned by his teacher for misbehaviour, while a boy with mental disabilities was caged at his home in Alor Star because of his hyperactivity.
Meanwhile, the parents of a Chinese primary school student in Kuala Lumpur recently wrote to the Chinese press to protest against the setting up of a pilot Special Education programme in the school. They noted that special needs children should be put in special schools, out of the way of other children.
I think it is timely, therefore, for us to be reminded that the Persons with Disabilities Act 2007 was passed in Parliament on Dec 18, 2007. And, in April this year, Malaysia became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The convention entitles the disabled to the “full enjoyment of all human rights and ensures full and effective participation as well as inclusion in society”.
The Disabilities Act states that the authorities should promote the integration of students with disabilities into normal schools, with a view to accommodating these students in the mainstream.
We are just over a decade from 2020, the target date for Malaysia to achieve developed nation status. Hence, there is some urgency for us to work towards bridging the gap between the laws we have on paper, and what we see in reality.
I would like to urge the Government to be wholehearted in its support for the law that it has passed. It needs to work together with related NGOs to educate the Malaysian public on the rights of the disabled.
We should work towards the setting up of integrated special education programmes in every government school with a view to full inclusion as soon as the system is ready.
Much work needs to be done in the area of special education – there should be provisions for facilities to accommodate disabilities, therapists and teacher aides, and teacher training in inclusive education.
It is a tall order, but it can be achieved with resolve and effort. It is, after all, no longer a matter of choice. The law requires Malaysians to restore the disabled to their rightful place in society.