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Special needs school drive urged

MORE efforts are needed to improve Bahrain's policy of integrating special needs students into public schools, experts said yesterday.

Bahrain is a pioneer in the field in the GCC, but parents need assurances that special needs children can succeed, they added. Schools also need to continuously upgrade their services in line with international standards, a workshop organised by Saudi Bahraini Institute for the Blind (SBIB) was told.

"Bahrain was one of the leading GCC countries to implement the integration of special needs students in public schools, but work is still needed to solve various problems," said SBIB director Abdulwahid Al Khayat.

"The institute has worked with the visually impaired for 34 years and provided educational and rehabilitation services," he said. "It was the first institute to implement integration for its students in public schools across the country."

He was speaking at the Educational Integration of Special Needs Children workshop, held at the SBIB, Isa Town.

The event was organised by Tharawat Investment House (Tharawat) in co-ordination with the SBIB and the Friendship Society for the Blind.

Mr Al Khayat said the goal behind the workshop was to exchange experiences with other institutes in Bahrain and the region.

"Also, we hope this institute can raise awareness and make it compulsory for special needs children to study in public schools," he added.

SBIB integration co-ordinator Shaikha Ghanim said that integration efforts were facing a number obstacles that need to be addressed.

"Some students, along with their parents, are not accepting the idea, they worry that they won't be able to succeed in public schools," she said.

Ms Ghanim said one of the problems was that the Education Ministry was constantly changing the curriculum, resulting in the institute having to pay for printing books in Braille.

"This means that students sometimes get their books late due to the procedure of printing in Braille," she added.


Ms Ghanim said the institute had first integrated students to public schools in 1982, where only two schools accepted them in their classrooms.

In 2005, students were integrated in the primary level and in the following year they were integrated in the elementary.

Al Eman Private School disabled students' specialist Mohammed Khwailat said that public schools needed to implement conditions to make integration successful.

"The students, parents and school administration need to work as a team to make this happen," he said.

"Then, conditions need to be followed, such as having no more than two special needs students in each classroom.

"This will enable teachers to concentrate more on the special needs students along with their other duties."

The event was attended by Tharawat director of corporate communications head Khalid Al Khayat as well as specialists from Bahrain and other GCC countries and parents.

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