KOTA KINABALU: Education must be made accessible to the disabled. In other words, if the disabled cannot come to school to attend classes, then it must be brought to them.
Young Voices founder Fariz A. Rani pointed this out during the question and answer session of the National Roadshow for Persons with Disability (OKU) held at Wisma Perkeso near here yesterday.
He opined that although opportunities were given to OKUs to fill up positions in the civil service, many will not be able to take advantage of the situation because they have not completed their secondary and tertiary education.
“In Sabah, there are many OKUs with this predicament. They have not even finished their UPSR, do how can they fill up the quota provided to them if they don’t have the necessary qualification?” he queried.
Fariz also said that it was wrong to group the OKUs and force them to follow the footsteps of their successful peers because every OKU has different types of disabilities.
“We cannot force all the OKUs to follow the footsteps of others who have succeeded. For some, attending school may not take so much effort, but what about our peers who are bedridden and want to continue their schooling? For them, going to school is not a 100 percent effort but instead, is a 200 percent effort or more.”
“I know of an OKU who has to be carried by her father to school everyday. But her dad laments that he can no longer do it because he is getting old … home-base education must be introduced for our peers who have problems travelling but have big dreams and ambitions,” he explained.
Fariz also stressed that all schools must be able to accept students with disabilities.
Education Department’s sector head in special education, Ahmad Sabari, said that the present education system only accepts students who are capable of caring for themselves.
“We need to amend this, but I have to say that it is also due to the lack of our capabilities,” he said.
Ahmad added that only 72 schools in Sabah were able to take in disabled students now and one of the newest updates in the provision of education for the disabled in the country was that now politechnics in the country have begun admitting students with hearing disabilities into their programmes.
At the same time, he also shared that six primary schools and six secondary schools in Sabah have constructed OKU friendly toilets for their disabled students.
“These are some of the efforts that have been introduced by the Education Department for our OKUs,” he said.
Additionally, ramps for wheelchair-bound OKUs were also being provided at some schools, and the department is also looking at the installation of escalators for OKUs at schools with more than one-storey buildings.
“However, we are studying the cost for these. We are limited when schools have several storeys,” he said.
Meanwhile, Francis Johen Anak Adam, a member of the OKU National Council said that it was a fact that many OKUs had problem finding jobs.
“However, despite of the many challenges faced, OKUs can efficiently perform tasks and there is a need to raise more awareness on their capabilities.
He added that opportunities for education must also be opened up for OKUs and schools must take advantage of the allocation rendered by the relevant ministry in becoming OKU-friendly schools.
With regards to employment in the civil service, OKU Development Department director Adnan Abu Bakar said that a total of 2,186 OKUs had been absorbed in the civil service last year and only three federal ministries out of the 24 and seven government agencies have more than one percent of its employees from OKUs.
“We are working with the SPA to increase the opportunities for OKUs to go into the Civil Service Department,” he said.
Also present during the roadshow were State Welfare Department director Etong Terang and Assistant OKU Development Director Natalie Gaban.