Save the Children, the foremost child rights organization in the Philippines, is urging Congress for the immediate approval of the Bicameral Committee version of the Inclusive Education (IE) Bill for Learners with Disabilities to be signed into law by the President.
“As School Year 2021-2022 is set to open on September 13, we must also consider the welfare of 5.5 Million Learners with Disabilities who have limited access to quality and inclusive education even before the pandemic,” said Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines.
“The early enactment of the ‘Inclusive Education Bill’ will provide children with disabilities with equal access and opportunities to quality education thereby making the educational system of our country more inclusive,” Muyot said.
The IE Bill, which is advocated by Save the Children Philippines and partners, was approved on 3rd Reading in the House of Representatives in December 2020 and in the Senate last May 2021.
The organization has raised concerns on the disruption of education among marginalized children and learners in the Philippines who were most impacted by the pandemic – with “lack of support, access to the internet, accessible software and learning materials” as just some of the many factors that “deepen the gap for students with disabilities” as per policy brief “A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19” by the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.
Children with disabilities face “major concerns” accessing: education (51.8%), child development services (50.7%), habilitation and rehabilitation services (48.5%), and general health services (42.8%) according to the “Situation of Children with Disabilities in the Context of COVID19” online survey in 2020 by the Council for the Welfare of Children – Sub-committee for Children with Disabilities. 14.1% of the respondents also cited a “decline in mental health and wellbeing of children” as a result of their inability to access mental health and psychosocial services.
Sierra Paraan, Basic Education Advisor of Save the Children Philippines, believes the IE Bill is crucial in supporting marginalized children during the pandemic, and improving education for all.
“The IE Bill is important in ensuring that the rights of children with disabilities to quality inclusive education are upheld as they, and their families, are among the most impacted by discrimination and inequality during this pandemic,” said Paraan.
The IE Bill seeks to provide learners with disabilities access to public and private schools, support services and capacity building to students, their families/ caregivers, and teachers, including the establishment of Inclusive Learning Resource Centers (ILRC) that will serve as knowledge hubs.
Among many of the IE Bill’s other provisions, an Advisory Council for Education of Learners with Disabilities will be made to support the Department of Education (DepEd) in further improving the country’s educational system, and to provide a support system for parents so they may be able to further care for their children at home. Learners with disabilities who have not had early childhood and basic education services will also receive support through the Child Find System which will identify and facilitate their inclusion in learning programs.
“This is why Save the Children urges everyone to support the bill,” said Paraan.
“With accessible, inclusive, appropriate education and services through the IE Bill, no student will be left behind.”