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Families welcome move to enroll disabled students to ordinary schools

Date Posted: 2002-07-13

The Ministry of Education and Science has decided to change current rules and encourage children with disabilities to enroll in ordinary elementary, junior high and high schools together with other students.

That is a move that a clear majority of the families of disabled children support. According to a recent survey taken after the ministry’s decision, 84.1 percent of the families with disabled children in Okinawa say that it is a good policy. “This is definitely a good idea as it gives my child an opportunity to interact with other children and teaches him how to become a member of the society,” Junko Uehara, a mother of a disabled child said in an interview.

The problem, according to education officials, is that many of these children need extra help in their daily routines, and the municipalities do not have budgets to hire helpers. Volunteers are also difficult to come by.

Some schools also cannot accept such children, as they do not have the special facilities that these children need. They don’t have slopes for wheelchairs, elevators or specially equipped toilets for disabled persons.

Most of teachers are also opposed to taking disabled children into their classes. They claim that they have to pay too much attention to those children at the expense of the rest of the class, and that’s simply not fair.

Some schools in Naha and Urasoe cities have accepted children with disabilities since 2001. In Urasoe City 40 people showed up in a course teaching how to become a helper at schools, but the city could afford to hire only one full-time helper. Other three people volunteered. Naha City has three full-time helpers and some volunteers.

Many school boards say that they would be happy to enroll disabled children in their schools, but they cannot do that before the question of who pays for the extra expenses is resolved.

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