Lilit Nerkararyan – TRANSCRIPT
Recently I took part in a conference, and during the break, we were speaking with foreign volunteers. One of them said that she wanted to adopt an Armenian kid.
As I am a teacher in a school for inclusive education I wanted to know if she would like to adopt a disabled kid. She replied with, “Poor Armenian, it doesn’t make any difference.” She said she could adopt a kid with special needs too. I was really happy and excited to hear such an answer, and at that time, I remembered two incidents from my life. The first one took place when I was studying at eighth grade, when we were going back to the classroom after a break.
We met a guy in the corridor, who had a heart disease. My friend hit him saying, “Go away, I don’t want to see you.” Every time I remember this incident, I can hear these words in my mind. Though our country has a law about education of disabled kids, approved on Sep 1, 2005, and accepted the UN convention for rights of persons with disabilities, still there are people in our society, who are not ready to accept disabled people as one of them.
I witnessed this several times. Once I was in Vanadzor, together with my friend, we were walking in the city square when we met a woman, who was with her daughter. This woman behaved strangely so we were watching them. I was sure that her daughter had some health problems. We suspected that it could be as a result of cerebral palsy.
But the worst thing was that the woman was obviously ashamed for that. I am sure that these kinds of things will disappear one day, as now in 117 Armenian schools there is inclusive education. And 2,700 kids with special needs study in these schools. But what we need is not only such schools, we also need carefully designed educational plan. For disabled kids there are three options for getting education: special, integrative, and inclusive.
As a teacher I am totally for inclusive education. But what is it? It’s a system that excludes any kind of discrimination towards kids. It creates a special environment for people with special needs. In our educational institutions we have some issues and because of them, inclusive education doesn’t work. In many schools, buildings are not equipped properly.
In some schools there aren’t any ramps for wheelchair users, and if there are, then they don’t meet safety standards. There aren’t any elevators or special toilets. This is just the top of the iceberg. I am sure that these things will disappear from over time. I hope one beautiful day, people will understand that persons with disabilities are humans, just like us.
We shouldn’t offend them or be ashamed because of them. Keep in mind that what makes their life comfortable is comfortable for us too.