Association of Special Needs Education Teachers in Uganda (ASNETU)
The birth of asnetu
G. K. Karugu reporting for UNESCO (1988) reports that a Mission on Education was set up to investigate the state of Special Education services in Uganda between 1987/1988. He says that it was recommended among others that Uganda should embark on training Special Education Teachers following the urgent need that was identified then. In response, training of teachers offering Special Education was started at the Institute of Teacher Education Kyambogo (ITEK) in September 1988. The department at ITEK later developed into Uganda National Institute of Special Education (UNISE) which was established with the help of the Government of Denmark. UNISE in 1992 joined other two institutions ie Uganda Polytechnic – Kyambogo (UPK) and Institute of teacher Education -Kyambogo to form what is current Kyambogo University. Since then, Special Needs Education teachers have been trained by Kyambogo University and of late a few other Institutions in the country to an approximate number of 12,000 teachers.
What prompted us to form the Association?
Findings from the study on ‘Opportunities for Inclusion (2006) indicated a striking need to reform and transform education despite Uganda’s advanced structure of training teachers in Special Needs Education. It was also observed that, although increasing numbers of children with disabilities (CWDs) are enrolled in mainstream schools in Uganda, the attendance, transition rates and levels of achievement for these children tend to be very low (Moyi, 2012). Various studies concluded that this problematic situation is the result of various factors – including lack of capacity and commitment of teachers, inadequate education, infrastructure, prevalent negative social attitudes, overcrowded classrooms, and shortage of necessary teaching and learning resources in schools (Arbeiter & Hartley, 2002; Najingo, 2004; Nyende, 2012. This calls for interventions of government and other stakeholders without leaving the Special Needs Education Teachers out.
On the other, Special Needs Education teachers felt they experienced some challenges that too instigated the formation of the Association.
1.The Widespread Misperception that Teaching is Easy
Teaching is a uniquely difficult job, one that comes with a set of huge responsibilities; however, many people fail to recognize the teacher’s role.
The various disabilities of the learners with whom Special Needs Education Teachers’ work multiplies the job’s difficulty. Special Needs Education Teachers are largely unrecognized and unsupported by the public. It’s hoped that with a united voice, they can advance their voices together.
Many teachers are trained and willing to teach but find themselves burdened with responsibilities that remove them from the classroom. Special Needs Education teachers often find themselves being required to go to meetings, overlooking sports, handwork activities and dealing with loads of paperwork.
This is because many school management & administrations don’t regard learners with special needs seriously and think they are wasting time taking these children for remedial work and other additional support.
3. Lack of Support
At a time when many large schools are experiencing high levels of growth, Special Needs Education Teachers are being asked to do more with less resources.
Salaries remain stagnant and there is often very little in the way of technical assistance provided by school administrations. Many of them have acquired high levels through self-funding and are refused study leave; so, they have to follow courses during holidays; the time they are needed by their families.
4. Dealing with
A special Needs Education teacher’s class may have learners with various disabilities. Since each learner is a unique case, the teacher must modify the lessons to suit each learner with the learning needs by providing individualized education programs. This, itself means additional preparation, time and resources.
5. Professional Isolation
The nature of a Special Needs Education teacher’s work is very different from that of traditional teachers; the result of this is that standard classroom teachers may not view them as colleagues. There may be a professional stigma attached to the work of teaching “slow” learners. Special Needs Education teachers may work with smaller groups and may focus on skills rather than content, thereby leading to the perception that their work is easier or less important.
6. Lack of
Support from Parents
Some parents of children with special needs are disinterested in the welfare of their children and fail to provide them with adequate care. Alternatively, they may be overly protective. Both can be problematic for the child and for their teacher. Disinterested parents may have no involvement with their child’s education or interaction with their teachers, whereas overprotective parents
may have unrealistic expectations from the child and the child’s teachers. Both attitudes can shape children in negative ways. Parental disinterest may make special needs learners less motivated and parents who are overprotective often diminish their child’s confidence and make it harder for them to learn. This, can stress the Special Needs Education teachers who work to see a successful learner.
7. The Difficulty of Discipline in a Special Needs Classroom
Children with disabilities may have behavioral issues including restlessness and moodiness. They may also exhibit problems like a short attention span or an inability to understand what is being taught. Special Needs Education teachers have to learn how to deal with these problems as well as how to take appropriate disciplinary measures. Bending towards the learners behavior so as to help them increases labels and stigmatization.
8. Budget Problems
Uganda as a country and probably in many nations of Africa, Special Needs Education programs are facing increasing enrollment and decreasing budgets. In the developed world, there are provisions for Teaching Assistants (TAs) but in Uganda, they are not provided, which results in a greater workload for Special Needs Education teachers.
9.The Certificate Education
In Uganda, School achievement is judged only by the certificates that one has got from School. Such Certificates are given when one has obtained certain aggregates from the School Grade levels. Where Children find difficulties passing Maths or Science, their teacher is seen as a non-performer. Special Needs Education Teachers face criticisms because they cannot have a learner with Intellectual Impairment get good aggregates from an examination.
Believe me, any of the above challenges would make the work of a Special Needs Education teacher incredibly difficult; as a group, they turn the job into a set of arduous tasks. Unfortunately, the result of the pressures placed on teachers is that the learners suffer.
We however, we feel that all is not lost. Through the united effort under the Association of Special Needs Education Teachers (ASNETU) are convinced that solutions will be got. The Association was therefore formed to do everything possible to promote the profession.
ASNETU shall promote the profession of Special Needs Education teachers and shall provide a national forum for their ideas.
ASNETU was established as a professional organization for former, current, and future Special Needs Education teachers who had no professional organization to call their own.
ASNETU is dedicated to ensuring that all children and adolescents with special needs receive the best Education possible.
ASNETU shall help members to stay abreast with the current issues that are shaping the field, affecting the lives of learners, and influencing professional careers.
ASNETU shall advance and encourage the professional development of its members through networking, research, practice, policy, publications, and membership benefits.
It’s hoped that all Special Needs Education Teachers will get motivated to join this National Association dedicated solely for teachers in the field of Special Needs Education.
Oyesigye Robert stuart
ASNETU (2017 – 2020)