Gatchalian bares learners with disabilities enrollment far from pre-pandemic levels

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The number of learners with disabilities enrolled in basic education remains far from pre-pandemic levels.

Senator Win Gatchalian pointed this out amid the observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities as he pressed that COVID-19 recovery efforts should uphold the welfare of children and learners with disabilities.

Data from the Department of Education (DepEd) showed that out of the estimated 444,294 children with disabilities (CWDs), only 112,810 are enrolled in 2021. Although this is slightly higher than the 111,521 enrolled in 2020 with an estimated CWD population of 437,598, it’s lower than the 360,879 enrolled in 2019 with an estimated CWD population of 431,004.

Following the bicameral conference committee’s approval on the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill No. 1907 and House Bill No. 8080, challenges hounding learners with disabilities such as accessibility to basic facilities, infrastructure, and transportation could soon be a thing of the past, said Gatchalian

“Kasabay ng ating pagbangon mula sa COVID-19 ang pagtaguyod natin sa kapakanan ng ating mga kabataan at mag-aaral na may kapansanan. Sa pamamagitan ng isinusulong nating batas sa Inclusive Education, matitiyak nating hindi na mapag-iiwanan pagdating sa edukasyon ang mga mag-aaral na may kapansanan,” said Gatchalian, co-author and sponsor of the said measure.

The reconciled version of the measure, which is titled “Instituting a Policy of Inclusion and Services for Learners with Disabilities in Support of Inclusive Education Act,” mandates that no learner shall be denied admission in any public or private school on the basis of disability, ensuring access to quality education to every learner with disability.

Under the proposed measure, DepEd, in collaboration with local government units (LGUs), will initially establish and maintain at least one Inclusive Learning Resource Center of Learners with Disabilities (ILRC) in every city and municipality. ILRCs may also be established in every school district based on the measure’s multi-year roadmap or as resources may allow.

ILRCs will serve as a one-stop shop for the delivery of free support services to learners with disabilities and the local implementation of various inclusive education programs. These services include linguistic solutions for deaf learners’ concerns, psychological services, and physical and occupational therapy, among others.

These ILRCs will also be tasked to implement the Child Find System to identify, locate, and evaluate all learners with disabilities who are not receiving basic education services.

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