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Coronavirus: Remote learning marginalising disabled students, says NGO

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Distance learning at all levels is marginalising students with disabilities to the point of excluding them completely from the education system, the Pancyprian Organisation for the Blind said on Wednesday.

“This is due not only to the rush with which e-learning was adopted in schools throughout the pandemic, but also due to the education ministry’s poor planning, as it did not take into account the needs of student with disabilities,” it said in a statement.

“We must remember that the school is the vehicle for their participation and integration into the community and, more generally, is where they learn about democratic values ​​and human rights.”

The statement also reminded that during the latest meeting of the House committee on education, the Pancyprian Alliance for Disability (KYSOA) had submitted a series of proposed measures to improve e-learning for students with disabilities, urging the government to implement them as soon as possible.

Specifically, as the Pancyprian Organisation for the Blind reiterated in the statement, KYSOA called on the education ministry “to provide alternative and accessible educational materials and to ensure that reasonable measures based on the individual needs of students with disabilities are taken.”

Moreover, it called for personalised support for each student with special needs, such as a personal assistant or a sign language interpreter who will facilitate the communication with the teachers.

More generally, the organisation and KYSOA urged the government to invest EU funds reserved for education to train teachers and assistants on how to create accessible digital content for students with disabilities.

Finally, the statement called on the state to ensure that each student with special needs has his or her own computer and internet access at home and that they are properly trained to use it independently.

“The implementation of these policies and measures will contribute to putting a stop to the discrimination, humiliation and marginalisation experienced today by thousands of students and adults with disabilities in our country.”

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