GESCI and the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES), Uganda organised a workshop with teachers and policy makers in the inclusive education space. This workshop is a follow up activity after the training of teachers on use of assistive technologies and development of accessible digital textbooks under the Accessible Digital Textbooks Project implemented by UNESCO.
The workshop, held virtually on 18th March 2022 aimed at providing an opportunity for participants in the teacher training institutions to share insights and experiences and perspectives and to relate promising practices, lessons learnt and opportunities for improving the adoption of Assitive Technologies and Accessible Digital Textbooks in teaching and learning for learners with disabilities.
Teachers and head teachers from 30 districts in Uganda participated in the workshop.
Speaking on the status of Accessible Digital Textbooks in Uganda, Ms. Annette Siima, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Special Needs Education (MOES) cited the following:
Support to schools: Twenty inclusive primary schools, supported by UNICEF, across Uganda and eighty teachers trained in the use of assistive digital technologies. Twenty additional special schools trained by GESCI with support from UNESCO. Forty teachers trained in the use of assistive technologies during the teaching and learning process.
Teacher capacity building: Teachers, using the assistive technologies, testify finding it easier to teach in an inclusive class.
Policies developed: Policies instruments developed such as the national ICT policy, accessible procurements policies , and accessible publishing guidelines for Uganda.
Marrakesh Treaty: This treaty was ratified in Uganda on 23rd April 2018 and a dissemination process has begun. Ms. Silma informed the participants that the government and key education stakeholders had, in November 2021, concluded national consultation on the status of implementation.
Content development: She reported that several processes that support the production and accessibility of content had been completed including; adapting content for learners with hearing and visual impairment; developed sign language video lesson for self –learning and training teachers on how to access the e-library (use of Kolibri).
UNESCO-GESCI Teacher training: She gave an overview of the teacher training that was organized by UNESCO and GESCI on Assistive Technologies (ATs) and Accessible Digital Textbooks (ADTs). She listed the key benefits of the training as observed during the school visits as follows;
- Most of the teachers gained confidence and pedagogical skills in using ADTs during the teaching and learning process.
- The learners showed interest and participated more actively during classroom learning than they did in the past.
- Awareness and support of Children With Disabilities (CWDs) by those without disabilities had also improved in the schools where teachers who participated in the training were drawn from.
- Learners being able to have self –study opportunity after classes.
- A platform to impart key aspects of ADT, enhance technology pedagogical skills in the national teacher training curriculum. Teachers, who had participated in the trainings, stated the platform enabled them to regularly share knowledge, information and updates.
- Establishment of a cohort of technical persons well placed to support the scale up of the initiative.
As she concluded, she mentioned that there was increased confidence in the use of accessible digital content with the use of assistive technologies by the teachers who had participated in the training. For example, in Kabalega, Hassan Turabi had come up with innovative ways of using existing technology to enhance learning.
Feedback from the teacher training
Mr. Bazil Onen a computer teacher at Gulu High School for learners with visual impairment and one of the facilitators at the teacher training said the team of the trained teachers were very enthusiastic. He went on to say that the training covered a wide range of disabilities within the aspect of assistive technology for learners with various disabilities namely, Visual Impairment (VI), hearing Impairment (HI), Intellectual Disabilities (ID) and Physical Impairment (PI). He regretted the lack of teaching materials for visual and hearing impairment and hoped that more would become available.
On the interactive digital textbooks aspect of the training, Mr. Onen said he was delighted that they were able to take teachers through using e-Pub, Dynamic multimedia formats, using Kolibri (and other file transfer protocols. They also took teachers through creating classroom materials from print materials by typing in word and captioning images, generate materials from pdf files.
Teachers experience after training
Mr. Okwir Sam Baker from Ngeta Girls
“I am excited to report that the orbit readers have really connected teachers to learners with Visual Impairment.I however, would suggest in future we increase the number of teachers benefitting from these training opportunities. It is not efficient to pick one teacher for training and the next training related to it they miss out.”
Mrs. Naula Mary from the Kireka home for the mentally handicapped.
“We shared what we learned with other teachers, and they were so excited. They really wish to be able to try these new skills but we have a challenge as follows, we now have 44 learners with special needs but no assistive devices”
On policies, infrastructure and capacity development for teachers, the participants had this to say:
Inadequate equipment: There needs to be synchronization of efforts among partners and the government in the provision of equipment. MOES should use the school database to locate schools that needs ATs devices.
Internet connectivity: There should be a plan to fund schools for internet connectivity for the schools to facilitate teachers to connect and access free/open online educational resources and software that they can use for training. The government should play a more central role in coordinating internet connectivity by, among other actions, lowering the cost of connectivity.
Community engagement: There should be community engagement for a needs- driven intervention in the education of children with special needs.
Capacity Development of teachers
Opportunities for teacher training: Participants suggested that the MoE, together with partners, should carry out nationwide teacher training, provide teachers with the required gadgets and prepare more training materials on the Accessible Digital Textbooks. They also reported that special needs being an evolving area, there is need to have more opportunities for refresher courses.
Better coordination of training: There is need to streamline the implementation of training activities. Trainings should be organized in partnership with Kyambogo and Primary Teacher Training Colleges. they also said there is a need for conversations to include National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC) for awareness creation. There is also need to create platforms for interaction and information sharing among teachers- peer training, teacher to teacher learning and to facilitate head teachers in the training.
Policies and Guidelines
There needs to be a policy in place that calls for assessment of learners in hospital where they can access hearing aids and have the assessments transferred to their schools
This activity was carried out under the framework of the Accessible Digital Textbooks (ADT) project, focusing on promoting inclusive education through accessible digital textbooks, funded by the UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD), the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, Nairobi, is promoting inclusive education through Accessible Digital Textbooks (ADTs).