Disability sector pushes for special education in colleges and implementation of existing laws

MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon (PIA)–Rhea M. is a 27-year-old high school graduate with hearing impairment. She always wanted to go to college and get a degree in hotel and restaurant management or information technology.

However, more than a decade after graduating from high school, she is still out of school. Local universities do not have the capacity to enroll people with his type of disability, his parents said. They twice approached a local college but refused admission.

“She stayed in high school. Hopefully the government will introduce the college-level version of special education from the Ministry of Education,” one of his parents said in an interview.

In March this year, the Philippines passed Republic Act 11650 or the Inclusive Education Act of 2022. But advocates said that now that there is a law, the challenge lies in its implementation.

“It is high time that the government paid sincere attention to the issues facing the disability sector,” said participants from the disability sector in the “Aspirations for Good Governance” focus group discussions and interviews here.

Results from focus groups held in the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia from March to April 2022 showed that the sector has lobbied for attention over time, including the provision of special education at college level to meet the specific needs of students with disabilities.

The question of special education in higher education is among those raised among the issues that those responsible for the period 2022-2028 should address according to the responses of the disability sector in the FGDs.

Marjorie Jimeno, coordinator of the Parent Mobilization Action Group and the Malaybalay City United Persons with Disabilities Association, said they have long been pushing for higher level special education. DepEd only offers special education at the primary and secondary levels.

A Higher Education Commission Circular issued in 2000 provided general guidelines for quality education for learners with special needs.

“Public higher education institutions (HEIs) must admit all learners with special needs, whether in academic, vocational or technical courses and other training programmes, except those who have already been accepted but whose facilities do not justify additional registrations. Private higher education institutions were also encouraged to do the same as part of their education service to qualified higher education students with special needs,” said the CHED Memorandum Circular, issued August 11, 2000 .

But she said they were always refused.

“(Students with disabilities) really needed to get a degree to be able to work, so they could compete with other graduates in the job market,” she told BukidnonNews.Net in July 2022.

Mr. Dominador D. Libayao, Head of Disability Affairs Division of Bukidnon Provincial Government, identified the issue as one of the biggest they face in the disability sector. He said they were still awaiting the implementing rules and regulations of RA 11650.

The issue of inclusive education, he said, has an impact on achieving the aspirations of the disability sector, even with existing laws.

He cited the implementation of RA 10524 or the law expanding the positions reserved for persons with disabilities. The law provides that 1% of staff in government agencies/offices must be persons with disabilities.

Libayao said people with disabilities have the disadvantage of meeting the eligibility criteria set by the Civil Service Commission. Many of them can only be hired as contract staff.

Libayao said one of the main reasons for this is unequal opportunities, as most people with disabilities have not attended college. The provincial government, Libayao said, is one of the first to employ people with disabilities among its human resources. In July 2022, of the 50 required by RA 10524, he said there were only 29 persons with disabilities in the provincial government, two of them on the basis of a work order. Of the 12 staff in his office, six are people with disabilities.

He said in particular that people with disabilities have less academic success.

He said that their main objective is that there should be a higher education institution, which will accommodate special education in the province. He added that for people with disabilities who opt for vocational technical education, there should also be a provincial technical and vocational resource center to rehabilitate, train, employ and generate income for people with disabilities.

He said it came down to SPED higher education funding and even Paragames funding.

“There are national and regional Paragames, but none at the provincial level,” he said.

Libayao said his office has already created a roadmap to bridge the higher education gap to start with basic study. He said hopefully funds for higher education could come from the local school board. He said most of the council’s funds so far go to infrastructure projects in schools, not special education.

Jimeno said their sector has also lobbied for the implementation of Republic Act 10070 or the Office of Disability Affairs, not only at the provincial level but also at the city and municipal level, and l adoption at the city and municipality level of the Bukidnon Magna Carta for the people. with disabilities, approved by the provincial government in 2021. She also called for the implementation of RA 10524 or the law providing for the employment of 1% of the total workforce of persons with disabilities (PWD).

Jorry Dao-ayan, vice president of the City of Valencia Federation of Disabled People, said people with disabilities also have the right to disability-inclusive health programs. He said local government units should also adopt community-based rehabilitation programs to provide services to their constituents with disabilities and allocate funds to support the program. He indicated that the funds could come from the Gender and Development funds of the LGU.

He added that the LGU should also institutionalize a local vocational resource center to meet the needs of people with disabilities who prefer technical and vocational education. He has also lobbied for scholarship programs and livelihood programs for people with disabilities as part of Disability Empowerment.

Libayao told Bukidnon that only four municipalities, Maramag, Pangantucan, Manolo Fortich and Libona have established their local Disability Affairs Office (PDAO). He said they are the only ones to have set up offices with their own operating expenses. The rest, the towns of Malaybalay and Valencia and 16 other towns are yet to be created, he added. He cited that the cities of Valencia and Malaybalay have ordinances creating the PDAO, but those of the city of Malaybalay are not yet compliant with RA 10070. Of the four with PDAO, only the municipality of Pangantucan has fully compliant with the eligibility standards established by CSC.

Libayao said that on the government side, there is a need to establish, at least, a disability affairs office to ensure inclusive governance.

“(It also means) real empowerment of the disability sector by taking a social model approach,” he added.

He noted that private companies that have at least 100 employees are also required to hire at least one disabled person.

“That doesn’t mean, however, that those with less than 100 people can’t hire people with disabilities,” he said.

The province also passed an ordinance institutionalizing the local Magna Carta for people with disabilities.

However, he said he still had no funds.

To date, his office, the PGO-PDAD, has requested about 24 million pesos from the Gender and Development fund, or 1% of the IRA to be transferred from the PSWDO to finance the programs, projects and activities of the disability sector of Province. of Bukidnon aligned with the local Magna Carta for people with disabilities. Some of the items covered by this expense include skills training, assistive devices course, and medical assistance.

Libayao said that based on sharing with WADP officials in the country, another challenge is the possibility of realigning funds intended for people with disabilities to other projects.

“So we strongly needed the support of the local executive. Our work plan is not up to scratch without the support of the General Manager,” he added. He said he looked forward to meeting Governor Rogelio Neil P. Roque about the plans of PDAD, a division under the office of the provincial governor.

The Piniyalan Reporting Governance Project is set to ask the questions generated by the focus groups about its disability program, but this has not yet been covered in the initial interview with the governor.

Ms. Jimeno, in her response to the focus group discussion question on what to her are the characteristics or indicators of good local governance, she said, when whoever sits in the office “has a good good policy and program for the disability sector” and “if those in power also fund the laws and ordinances they approve.

“Kinahanglan tanan nga proyekto mga inclusive programs. Dili nga pirmi lang left behind ang uban (there is a need for government to make all programs inclusive and avoid programs that leave others behind),” she added. (PINIYALAN/PIA-Bukidnon Report Governance Community Project)

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