Towards Inclusive Education in Nigeria: Appreciative Voices of Parents and Educators of Primary School Children With(out) Disabilities

Author: Salamah Osuji-Alatilehin

Osuji-Alatilehin, Salamah, 2016 Towards Inclusive Education in Nigeria: Appreciative Voices of Parents and Educators of Primary School Children With(out) Disabilities , Flinders University, School of Education

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The purpose of this study was to examine inclusive basic education for children with disabilities (ages 6-11) within Nigeria from the understandings of the most positive experiences of school heads, teachers, and parents of children with and without disabilities in an inclusive primary school; uncover what gives life to their participation in inclusive education, and to identify opportunities they draw upon in achieving these positive experiences, and the advancement of inclusive education. The objective is to arrive at concepts of exemplary inclusive education practices that may be used to inform change strategies and generate an agenda for the advancement of primary level inclusive education programme.

Historically, societal attitude had assumed that disability is a result of “curse”, hence persons with disabilities are seen as “dependent” and “uneducable”. However, with the recent global trend in education, more structures are being setup not only to provide children with disabilities with basic education, but to enhance their full participation in the activities of their neighborhood schools. A review of the literature surrounding inclusive education and its practices showed that this topic has gained momentum. However, only a few studies focus on inclusive education from the community members’ perspectives and fewer still underscore the positive experiences of primary level school heads, teachers, and parents of children with and without disabilities. As a result, in order to sufficiently explore the phenomena of inclusive education, its advancement and sustainability from the participants’ point of view, and to arrive at their understandings of positive inclusive education, I used a qualitative case study which was conducted through an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) process.

The main data collection method was individual appreciative interviews. A sample of eight community members comprising of parents and educators from a private voluntary primary school in a South-Eastern state in Nigeria was used in the study. Data analysis was guided by Corbin and Strauss’ (1990) method of data analysis. As the participants shared their understandings of their most positive inclusive education experiences, significant findings emerged. Among these findings was that positive inclusive experiences for the participants exist in the confluence of “growing capabilities,” “caring for the dignity of humanity,” and “building and strengthening community.” Importantly, another interpretation that was gleaned from the data was that accommodating “Conflicting attitudes” were deemed very important for the success of inclusive education as it creates atmospheres to meet on a common ground and continuously reflect on their values and actions.

The opportunities participants draw upon in advancing inclusive education practices revealed two major findings. Primarily, inclusive education advancement and sustainability is an embedded relationship between the school’s leadership practices and partnership with other related institutions. Consistent with the objective of this study, an agenda for the advancement of inclusive education program was recommended based on an incorporation of the understandings of the parents’ and educators’ most positive inclusive education experiences and the opportunities they draw upon in advancing inclusive education practices.

Having taken a positive and appreciative approach to understanding parents’ and educators’ inclusive education experiences, I conclude that the concepts that emerged are compelling arguments for nurturing the voices of these community members. There is also much more to be learned by deliberately engaging appreciative processes as it enhances our capacity to create community members who articulate optimistic support for inclusion in schools and the community for primary school children with disabilities.

Keywords: inclusive education, inclusive education practices, children with disabilities, Appreciative Inquiry, primary education, parents, teachers, head teachers, educators, Nigeria, developing country

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2016
School: School of Education
Supervisor: Dr Michael Bell