The experts who spoke at the opening ceremony of the 34th National Conference of the Nigeria Association of Special Education Teachers emphasised the need for leveraging technology in teaching students with special needs.
The three-day conference, which began on June 6, 2023, has as its theme: Application of E-Learning in Teaching and Learning for Learners with Special Needs in Nigeria, is ongoing at the Conference Hall, Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan, Oyo State.
Delivering the keynote address at the opening ceremony on Tuesday, Professor Olufemi Fakolade, Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan, said the introduction of e-learning enables students with special needs to overcome obstacles peculiar to traditional forms of learning.
“E-learning supports the inclusion in education of children with disabilities by enabling them to overcome some of the barriers causing their exclusion. It complements other face-to-face methods and tools, such as teacher training and inclusive pedagogy,” Fakolade said.
Also speaking, Professor Christiana Dada of the Faculty of Education, Kwara State University, who presented the lead paper, titled, “Best Practises and Implementation Strategies in ICT Usage for Students with Special Needs,” observed that though there are many challenges in adopting e-learning in teaching students with special needs, they are surmountable.
The professor of special education, among other things, recommended training and sustaining teachers’ interest in ICT.
“The training of teachers needs to be modified to arouse their interest. They need to be sensitised right from the time they are in school until they are employed. The government and concerned stakeholders need to put resources together, and this will be feasible,” Dada stressed.
The National President of the association, Dr Catherine Atteng, said the topic of the conference was in line with the international trend.
“It’s a globalised world, and we can not continue the old ways. Everybody is deploying technology, and we can’t deprive these students with special needs the opportunity to be at par with their counterparts with disabilities across the world,” she said.
The second lead paper presenter, Dr Rasheed Abilu, did not share the sentiment of the others as he presented data showing the state of ICT in mainstream and special schools across the country.
Abilu reported that many schools across the country have computer laboratories but most are sealed up or inaccessible to learners.
“In other schools where computer laboratories are available, those computers are not made accessible to all clusters of students with disabilities. For instance, screen readers were not installed on those computers for the blind to access them, no alternative input devices, nor adaptive keyboards were provided in line with the individual’s special needs,” he said.
In her goodwill message, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education in the state, Mrs Christiana Abioye, restated the commitment of the state governor, Engr Seyi Makinde, to education in the state and especially the education of children with special needs.