Over the years, the term “inclusive” has come to mean “including children with disabilities” in “regular” classrooms for children without disabilities. Here, “inclusive” means much more.
“Inclusive” does mean including children with disabilities, such as children who have difficulties seeing or hearing, who cannot walk, or who are slower to learn. But “inclusive” also means including ALL children who are left out or excluded from school. This means, for example, children who don’t speak the language of the classroom or who belong to a different religion or caste, and children who may be at risk of dropping out because they are sick, hungry, or not achieving well. It also means girls who are pregnant, children affected by HIV/AIDS, and all girls and boys who should be in school but are not, especially those who work at home, in the fields, or elsewhere (migrants) to help their families survive. “Inclusive” means seeking all available support—from school authorities, the community, families, children, educational institutions, health services, community leaders, and so on—for finding and teaching ALL children.
Even when all children are enrolled in school, some may still be excluded from participating and learning in the classroom. For instance, they may be children:
- for whom a lesson or textbook is not written in their first language;
- who are never asked to contribute;
- who never offer to contribute;
- who can’t see the blackboard or a textbook or can’t hear the teacher; or
- who are not learning well and for whom no attempt is made to help them.
These children are likely to be sitting at the back of the classroom and may soon leave altogether (drop out). As teachers, we are responsible for creating a learning environment where ALL children can learn, ALL children want to learn, and ALL children feel included in our classrooms and schools.
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