Implementation of Inclusive Education Act for PWDs sought

Graduates of Bukidnon National High School in Malaybalay City. MindaNews file photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 14 July) — After the passage of Republic Act 11650 or the Inclusive Education Act of 2022 in March this year, advocates said the challenge now lies in its implementation to benefit persons with disabilities or PWDs.

“It is high time for the government to pay sincere attention to the problems facing the persons with disability sector, ” participants from the PWD sector here told the “Aspirations for Good Governance” Focused-Group Discussions and Interviews.

A case cited was that of Rhea M., a 27-year old high school graduate with hearing disability. She has always wanted to proceed to college and earn a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management or Information Technology.

However, more than a decade after finishing her secondary education, she is still out of school. Local universities have no capability to enroll persons with her kind of disability, her parents said.
They have twice approached a local college but she was denied admission.

“She has remained in high school. Hopefully the government will set up the college level version of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) special education,” one of her parents said in an interview.

Results of the FGDs held in the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia in March to April 2022 showed that the sector has been pushing for attention through time, including the provision of special education for the college level to cater to the specific needs of students with disabilities.

Special education in tertiary education is among the issues that officials who will serve from 2022 to 2028 should address, according to the responses of the PWD sector in the FGDs.

Marjorie Jimeno, coordinator of the Parents Mobilization Action Group and the Malaybalay City United Persons with Disabilities Association said they have been pushing for tertiary level special education for a long time.

DepEd only offers special education in the elementary and high school levels.A Commission on Higher Education (CHED) memorandum circular issued in 2000 provided general guidelines for quality education for learners with special needs.

“Public higher education institutions (HEIs) shall admit all learners with special needs whether in academic, vocation, or technical courses and other training programs, except those which have already been accepted but whose facilities do not warrant additional enrollees. Private HEIs were also encouraged to do the same as part of their education service to qualified tertiary level students with special needs,” the CHED memorandum circular, issued on August 11, 2000 said.

But Jimena said they were still turned down.

“(The students with disability) really need to obtain a degree so they can work, so they can compete with other graduates in employment,” she told MindaNews this month.

Dominador D. Libayao, chief of the Persons with Disability Affairs Division of the Provincial Government of Bukidnon, identified the issue as one of the biggest confronting the PWD sector.

He said the problem of inclusive education also impacts on the realization of the PWD sector’s aspirations, even with existing laws.He cited the implementation of RA 10524 or the Act Expanding the Positions Reserved for Persons with Disability.

The law provides that 5% of personnel of government agencies/offices should be PWDs.Libayao said the PWDs face a disadvantage in terms of passing the eligibility requirements set by the Civil Service Commission (CSC). Many of them can only be hired as contractual personnel.

He said one of the major reasons for this is the inequality in opportunities because most of the PWDs have not attended college.

The provincial government, Libayao said, is one of the first to employ PWDs. As of July 2022, out of the 50 as required by RA 10524, he said there are only 28 PWDs working in the provincial government. Of the number, he said, only 12 have regular positions and all are working in his office, which was created in 2018.

He noted that PWDs have less in terms of educational achievement.He said their main thrust is to push for a higher education institution which will accommodate special education in the province.

He added that for those PWDs who opt for vocational-technical education, there should also be a provincial resource center to rehabilitate, train, employ, and generate income for them.He said it boils down to funding for special education in the tertiary level and Paragames.

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

Libayao said his office has already created a road map to address the tertiary education gap starting with a baseline study.

Hopefully, he said, funds for tertiary education could be sourced from the Local School Board. He said most of the board’s funds so far goes to infrastructure projects in schools, not for special education.

Jimeno said their sector has also pushed for the implementation of RA 10070 creating the Persons with Disability Affairs Office not just in the provincial level but also in cities and municipalities and the adoption at the city and municipal level of the Bukidnon Magna Carta for Persons with Disability, which was approved by the provincial government in 2021.

She has also called for the implementation of RA 10524 or the act providing for the employment of 1% of the total workforce from PWDs.

Jorry Dao-ayan, vice president of the Valencia City PWD Federation said the PWDs have the right to disability inclusive health programs.

He said the local government units should adopt community-based rehabilitation programs in delivering services to their constituents with disabilities the money for which can be sourced from their gender and development funds.

He added that the LGU should institutionalize a local vocational resource center to cater to PWDs who prefer technical and vocational education, scholarship programs, and livelihood programs to empower them.

Libayao said that in Bukidnon only four municipalities — Maramag, Pangantucan, Manolo Fortich, and Libona — have established their local Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO) with their own operating expenses. But only Pangantucan has fully complied with the eligibility standards set by the CSC.

The rest, the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia and 16 other towns, are yet to be set up, he added.
He cited that Valencia and Malaybalay have ordinances creating PDAO, but Malaybalay’s is not yet compliant with RA 10070.

He said establishing a PDAO ensures inclusive governance and genuine empowerment of the PWD sector adopting a social model approach.

He noted that private companies which have at least 100 workforce are also required to hire at least one PWD.“

It doesn’t mean, however, that those with less than 100 personnel cannot hire PWDs,” he clarified.

The province has passed an ordinance institutionalizing the Local Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities but it still has no funds, he said.As of now, his office, the PGO-PDAD has requested an estimated P24 million from the gender and development fund, which is 1% of IRA to be transferred from the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office to fund the programs, projects and activities of the PWD sector of Bukidnon aligned with Local Magna Carta for PWDs of the province. The amount will fund capability-training, assistive devices course, and medical assistance, among others.

Libayao said that based on sharing with other PDAOs in the country, one more challenge is the possibility of realignment of funds intended for PWDs to other projects.

“So we strongly need local executive support. Our work plan is no match without the support of the chief executive,” he added. He said he looks forward to meeting with Gov. Rogelio Neil P. Roque about the plans of the PDAD, a division under the Provincial Governor’s Office.

The Piniyalan Reporting Governance Project is set to ask the FGD-generated questions on Roque’s PWD agenda, but this was not covered yet during the initial interview with the governor.

Responding to the FGD question on what she considers are traits or indicators of good local governance, Jimeno said officials should have a good policy and program for the PWD sector and fund the laws and ordinances that they approve.

“Kinahanglan tanan nga proyekto mga inclusive programs. Dili nga pirmi lang left behind ang uban (There is a need for the government to make all programs inclusive and shun programs that leave others behind),” she added. (MindaNews)