INCLUSION IN TIMES OF DISTANCING An E-conference on the National Day for Students with Learning Difficulties

In line with the COVID-19 pandemic crisis and on the occasion of the 8th annual ‘National Day of Students with Learning Difficulties, the British Council and the SKILD Centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) organised a unique e-Conference that joined over 900 participants from 17 different countries to address “Inclusion in Times of Distancing”.

To shed the light into the efforts done by educators, special educators, and parents the e-Conference was divided into three sections in total representing 50 inclusive private schools, 30 inclusive public schools, and inclusive institutions of higher education (Lipscomb University and Notre Dame University – Loueizeh), from Lebanon, the U.K., U.S.A, and Canada.

As the patron of the event, H.E. Minister of Education and Higher Education, Dr Tarek Majzoub mentioned that the ministry aims to ensure the transformation of all public schools in Lebanon to inclusive schools by 2030. He also promised that as an active member of this administration, he is making it his priority to see legislative reforms take place that will protect the right of every child to an inclusive and quality education. Also, in attendance was HMA Mr. Chris Rampling, the British Ambassador to Lebanon, who highlighted the importance of inclusive education and the British Government’s continued support to see more inclusive schools by expressing that “education is the future of all children as it provides them with a ladder to reach all opportunities regardless of their gifts”.

Speaking alone from an empty centre that would otherwise be buzzing with children, Dr Nabil Costa, Founder of the SKILD Centre and lead organizer of the National Day opened up the two and a half hour virtual conference reassuring parents and special educators alike “that despite the temporary seclusion today, this platform is meant to access every home and school to provide an equitable access to information offered by all contributors today.” Mr. David Knox, Lebanon country Director of the British Council, said “inclusive education is an education that values differences and provides opportunities for every learner. Children with special educational needs should receive the same level of protection and support amid COVID-19.”

Likewise, Dr Misty Parsley the program Director for special education at Lipscomb University revealed that “the priority in distance learning for students with learning difficulties is to continue to provide ways for them to practice their skills. For example, choice boards for areas such a cooking, exercise, and leisure, have proven to be successful and effective.”

Other interventions included Mrs Bahiya Hariri, Head of Lebanese Parliament Education Committee, Mr Melhem Khalaf, President of Beirut Bar Association, Mr. Fadi Yarak, General Director of Education at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) and Dr Nada Oweijan, President of Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD).

The British Council and the SKILD Centre are renewing their commitment to students with learning difficulties as they are faced with completely new and challenging means of learning. The hope is that this initiative will serve as a model of the need for enhanced cross-sectoral collaborations that will lead to strategic and preventative measures to alleviate the burden on students, and set them up for success as they await to transition back into the classroom when educational and specialized institutions resume teaching in person.

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