Parents of children with disabilities announced on Saturday they are to stage a protest outside the education ministry on Monday to request the application in Cyprus of Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The group – members of eleven organisations – said they felt compelled to protest as they feel that children with disabilities are not receiving the proper support from schools.
“Another school year begins for our children, with reduced individual support from specialist teachers…, no personal support from specialist teachers within the general class and sporadic efforts of co-teaching between general and special teachers within the classroom,” it said.
Parents also said that among others there is “lack of training of special and general teachers on the rights of our children and their obligations”, and absence of support for the effective use of technology by children for learning and their participation in education.
There are also no mechanisms to allow the provision of support in afternoons “so that parents will not have the dilemma whether to send their children to a special school where support is offered”.
Article 24 of the UN convention states, the group said, that “persons with disabilities should be guaranteed the right to inclusive education at all levels, regardless of age, without discrimination and with equal opportunities for all”.
The protest is being organised among others by the organisation of the Blind, the parents and friends of children with cerebral and other paralyses, the parents’ association of the Nicosia special school, the association of relatives and friends of people with autism, and the association of special educators.
Meanwhile, following media reports with regard its policies on children with disabilities, the education ministry said in an announcement that it “recognises the right of children or persons with disabilities/special needs for equal participation in education”.
The ministry spares no effort when it comes to the education of children with special needs, the announcement said, albeit it recognises that there is always room for improvement and upgrading of the programmes and infrastructure for special education.
Within this framework, a study has been carried out which is to be presented on September 20, it said, while a dialogue will follow with parents to discuss its proposals.
It added that the education ministry respects the provisions of the UN convention and based on individual assessments of each child it provides specialised training tailored to the individual needs of each child in properly equipped spaces.
All schools are equipped with wheelchairs, special desks, and walkers while children with disabilities whose needs are served in schools outside their educational region are transported by the ministry or their transportation is subsidised.
“Additionally, the education ministry takes all measures for accessibility both in infrastructure – lifts, ramps, labelling – and the curriculum with the introduction of new technologies in education,” it said.
In response to the request of parents, it said, all special schools operate all-day, “thus by extending the operating hours of special schools, the needs of children and their families are being served, to the greatest extent possible”.
The ministry said that it has an annual budget of €11m to cover the needs for special equipment, transport, employment of auxiliary staff, all-day operation of special schools, home education, the financial support of associations of parents of special schools, and the operation of summer programmes in special schools.