Parents hope schools follow inclusivity rule
Dubai - A few parents have spoken out about discrimination and refusal of school admission.
Published: Sat 26 Jan 2019, 9:46 PM
Last updated: Sat 26 Jan 2019, 11:49 PM
Parents of students who require special assistance in education are hoping schools would thoroughly follow the new guidelines set to help their institutions become fully inclusive.
A few parents have spoken out about discrimination and refusal of school admission.
The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) released a 40-page guidebook that lists a number of requirements private schools have to follow, including ensuring students of determination get admission, an inclusion support team is established, and that no discrimination occurs.
The list is part of the KHDA's Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework that aims to make all schools 100 per cent inclusive by 2020.
Even though parents of children with special needs are relieved that authorities are taking the necessary steps, they are encouraging strict enforcement. A few of them shared their plight with Khaleej Times, especially about discrimination and their struggle to get their child enrolled in a mainstream school.
A Brazilian-French parent in Dubai, Michele Cristina Gambalonga, said her son with autism was refused admission in nine different schools. It wasn't until September 2018 that her son was finally able to get enrolled in a Dubai private school.
"My son has autism, so he needs speech therapy, a shadow teacher and occupational therapy. Everything is very expensive. Few of the schools asked us to do the admission review, which costs a fee of Dh600 to Dh1,000. Then, they ask for medical reports. The third thing is that they say 'we can't assess your child because we can't support his needs at our school'. They don't reimburse you and they close the door for you," said Gambalonga, whose son is nine years old.
She also spoke about the discrimination her child faces outside the school. She worries about the lack of tolerance among children as parents fail to educate them when it comes to learning about people of determination.
"A child at a park in Dubai was laughing at him because he sings a lot. He is a good musician and keeps singing. One time at the Kite Beach, he was playing with a scooter and one child asked his parents 'why is he singing?' and his parents told him 'not to look at him because he's crazy'," she recalled.
"And the child would say 'don't come near me because my mum said you're sick' or 'you have schizophrenia'. It's such a big deal when your child comes and asks you what that is and asks if he has it. It's very difficult to deal with it. It's not the child's fault, it's the parents' fault."
Another parent, Mirna Chehab Daaboul, also has a child with autism, who is currently in Grade 3. She believes schools will "always have their own agenda" even though a new policy framework has been introduced to make schools fully inclusive.
She shared her child's own tragic experience while trying to get admission in a private school. "I wanted to change his school because, indirectly, they showed us that they can no longer accommodate him. When we went to another school, they took lots of time to reply after pushing them for an answer," Daaboul said.
"They first took him to the classroom and the lady was very nice and showed interest in him but, coming to the confirmation, they delayed it to the maximum and decided to do another round for him.
"The other member of their special education needs department tried to take him without my assistance and due to lack of communication between this stranger and my son, who obviously was so nervous that he urinated on himself. Then, of course, the man said they can't help him."
She said she's had other similar experiences, where schools have shown reluctance in giving admission to her child. "You feel like you are a parasite in this society - for example, during the end-of-year school play, instead of giving him a small part, they preferred not to include him," Daaboul added.
One of the guidelines for schools by the KHDA also ensures that students of determination are included in school-related activities.