Inclusive education for handicapped Brazilian children

16:57, November 13, 2009      

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The Brazilian government decided in September 2008 that handicapped children should study at regular schools and no longer at special ones.

Inclusive education was established by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which came into force on May 3, 2008.

It means all students in a school, regardless of their strengths or weaknesses in any area, become part of the school community.

The Basic Education School Census conducted in 2008 in Brazil shows the percentage of students with disabilities enrolled in regular schools had increased from 46.8 percent in 2007 to 54 percent last year, with more than 375,000 students with disabilities, pervasive developmental disorders and high ability or giftedness participating in inclusive education.

However, these figures should be higher.

It was reported in 2008 that 71 percent of the BPC, or Continuous Welfare Benefit, beneficiaries with disabilities aged zero to 18 years are excluded from school. The BPC is paid by the Brazilian government to people aged more than 65 and to those who cannot work due to a handicap problem.

According to the Brazilian Education Ministry, the school system must rebuild itself to meet the needs of the whole community, including people with and without disabilities.

Therefore, adjustments are required in buildings, resources and, above all, in attitude. The concept is appealing but not easy to implement.

"Inclusive education is not a reality yet. We face problems in private schools as well as in public schools," said Maria do Socorro Cortes, a doctor whose 12-year-old son suffers from bipolar affective disorder.

Socorro and her husband work at the Deputies Chamber Medical Department in Brasilia, the Brazilian capital.

Thanks to their strong financial situation, their two children, Felipe and Daniela, used to study at a reputable private school in Brasilia. But in June 2008, the school kindly asked Felipe to leave.

"The inclusive education is welcomed by schools when the child doesn't disturb others. Inclusion is not happening for children with psychiatric disorders," she emphasized.

"Private schools don't want to waste time, and they want to be sure that content is given to students," said Marcia Gomes Fernandes, pedagogical director at Arvense, another private school in Brasilia.

But the school she directs is considered to be different, as each classroom must count on a maximum of 20 students and extracurricular activities such as theater, philosophy, arts and reading are offered.

In Brazil, it is very common to find a classroom with 50 to 60 students in private and public schools.

Since the number of pupils in a classroom is limited, so is the number of disabled children: one in each classroom.

Inclusive education was implemented in Arvense in 1994. "One of the school's missions is to open space to disabled children," says Marcia Gomes.

But vacancies are scarce and this idea of the school mission doesn't seem to be a consensus in every school in Brasilia.

"After my son was asked to leave the school where he was studying, I have contacted more than 10 private schools in Brasilia. None of them had vacancies," said Maria do Socorro, Felipe's mother.

So, Felipe started studying in a public school this year.

Source: Xinhua
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