Rural Sri Lankans with special needs require immense support and care. A report in the Disability Studies Quarterly highlights the dire need for special needs education and support in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a country that values education. Education participation among children without disabilities is 95% in the 5-14 years age group and 65% in the 15-19 years age group. In stark contrast, of the reported 10.6% of school-aged children in Sri Lanka who have disabilities, 10.2% do not attend school because of it, meaning only 0.4% of these children go to school.
At present, there is no education law that mandates children with disabilities receive education services. In spite of Sri Lanka’s high school enrollment rate, many children with disabilities do not attend school. The stigma and negative attitudes associated with disability often make people unwilling to even admit they have a family member with a disability, thus preventing children with disabilities from accessing special education services.
Barriers to accessing special education also include a limited number of rural schools having special education units, administrators denying children with disabilities admission to schools, an insufficient number of qualified teachers and parents lacking awareness regarding educational facilities. There is a general lack of awareness within Sri Lankan society, that people with disabilities can benefit from schooling and become contributing members of society.
It is against such a backdrop that the Foundation of Goodness is delighted to announce the opening of “Finding Dreams”, our very own Special Needs Unit at the MCC Centre of Excellence. Finding Dreams will offer a special, well rounded education to 12 beneficiaries currently enrolled, including vocational skills, sports, speech therapy and general knowledge, completely free of charge.
There are many people who we need to recognise for their immense support for this project. Our Trustee Dr. Naj Nagendran who introduced us to the importance of special needs education and support. Humedica Lanka along with CEO Dr. Prithiviraj and Zonal Education Director Mrs.Geethani Wijegunasinghe for their constant support in making “Finding Dreams” a reality. Last but not least, Andrea Pereira from Australia who sponsored the set-up cost of this unit to benefit rural Sri Lankans with special needs.
For the full report on Special Education in Sri Lanka: A snapshot of three provinces:
Citations in the excerpt from the report used above:
(The United Nations Children’s Fund Regional Office for South Asia [UNICEF ROSA], 2007)
(UNICEF ROSA, 2007)
(Ministry of Social Welfare, 2003)
(Furuta, 2006; Furuta, 2009; UNICEF ROSA, 2007)