By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) led the launch of a project that will help increase access to quality education of children with special needs.
DepEd, in partnership with the Resources for the Blind, Inc. (RBI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), recently launched the “Gabay Project” in Cubao, Quezon City.
The “Gabay Project,” DepEd explained, aims to “increase access to quality education of children with sensory impairment for the attainment of improved education and literacy outcomes through early detection, instruction, and support for the blind, deaf, and deaf-blind children.”
For Samuel Soliven, officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Curriculum Development (BCD) Director III, children with special needs and those with multiple disabilities “deserve kindness, love, and guidance in pursuit of their dreams.”
Soliven also emphasized that “DepEd is one” with USAID Gabay Project and all stakeholders on the implementation of “inclusive education” and further highlighted that Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 4 ensures “inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong opportunities for all.”
The “Gabay Project,” likewise, aims to build on past experiences by employing universal design strategies and working closely with DepEd; Disabled Peoples’ Organization (DPO); local government units (LGU); Parent Advocates for Visually Impaired Children (PAVIC); Innovation in Inclusive Education for Children with Sensorial Disabilities (i-SEND); and a network of agencies composed of Better Hearing Philippines (BHP), Deaf-blind Support of the Philippines (DBSP), and Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology (PAO).
DepEd said that the beneficiaries of the three-year project are Batangas City, Batangas province, Sorsogon City, Sorsogon province, Maasin City, and Southern Leyte.
Aside from DepEd officials, also present in the event were RBI Board Chairman Goodwill Mercado-Lansang, RBI Executive Director Amy Mojica, USAID Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II, and USAID Philippines Disability Inclusive Education Coordinator Joshua Josa.
Data from DepEd Bureau of Learning Delivery-Student Inclusion Division (BLD-SID) showed that for 2016-2017, the total enrollment in SPED under DepEd is 238, 576. Of this number, 110, 346 are in elementary (68, 372-graded and 41, 974-non-graded) and 128, 230 in secondary. DepEd data also showed that there are only 678 schools in 258 divisions that offer the SPEd program. Of this number, 501 schools in 195 divisions for Elementary and 177 schools in 63 divisions for Secondary.
The types of exceptionalities served are categorized in “Medical Model” or those with visual impairment, hearing impairment, learning disability, intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, emotional/behavioral disorder, orthopedically handicap, speech/communication disorder, cerebral palsy, health/chronic illness and multi-disability and “Social Model” or those who have difficulty in seeing, hearing, applying basic knowledge, remembering, concentrating/paying attention, walking, climbing, grasping and communicating. DepEd noted that the assessment of former is through diagnosis of licensed specialist while the latter is through the Multi-Factored Assessment Tool (MFAT).