I was asked to fill in a survey by a PhD student in an English University. I would like to share my answers with wider audience. Your views on universal education in Uganda What comes to your mind when you hear ‘education’? One of the turning points in life. What do you consider to be the purpose of universal/ free education in Uganda? equal opportunity for all including marginalised groups of children in principle. To what extent is universal education available, acceptable and accessible in Uganda? even if “universal”, many of my interviewees told me that they have to pay for stationeries, uniforms etc. When families cannot afford to purchase them to their all children, then priorities are given to certain children only. Often children with disabilities are left out as a result. Also schools are not always accessible, both physically and attitudinally. Many teachers are not trained and equipped with skills of, for instance, Sign Language. Moreover, the society as a whole is often disabling, in which education and schools are located. Thus, even when education is universal and schools are accessible, many children with disabilities cannot reach education, due to lack of prerequisites for education such as assistive devices, positive attitude of families and community members, self-esteem etc. In this regard, education as a part of social structure cannot be available, acceptable and accessible without changing the whole environment as enabling rather than disabling as of now. What do you consider to be the successes of universal education in Uganda? In policy, the priority is given to marginalised children including children with disabilities. Although it has not been materialised in practice, this is a success at the policy level. When all children including those with disabilities are in schools with equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation, then that would be the success. Without children with disabilities, there is no success but failure. What do you consider to be the challenges of universal education in Uganda? Universal education is a good idea in principle and in policy. But it has not been realised for many children with disabilities. The challenge is that decision makers are satisfied for the universal education already and do not problematise the fact that many children with disabilities are excluded still from the mainstream. Mainstreaming is important, but without careful attention to children with disabilities, that often makes them invisible as if problems are solved. How could universal education be improved in Uganda? Not only education but the whole society need to change. People need to perceive that it is natural and common sense to include persons and children with disabilities in everything and everywhere with reasonable accommodation. Section 3 Your views on education for children with disabilities in Uganda What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘disability’? Both positive and negative experiences of persons and children with impairments. What do you consider to be the purpose of education for children with disabilities in Uganda? The same as peers without a disability. To what extent is education for children with disabilities available, acceptable and accessible in Uganda? I already answered this question. What do you consider to be the successes of education for children with disabilities in Uganda? I dare to repeat that not only education stakeholders but the whole society needs to change for successful education for children with disabilities in Uganda. What do you consider to be the challenges of educating children with disabilities in Uganda? I’m not in the position to enlist challenges of educating children with disabilities in Uganda, as I feel the challenges of each child are different from each other due to different environments and different personal capacity including personal characteristics. There is no universal solution for such diverse group of children, and thus tailor made attention should be paid to each child and his/her environment so that he/she can receive proper education. How could education for children with disabilities in Uganda be improved? Once again, I am not in the position to answer on behalf of each child with a disability, as their situations and realities are so different from each other. Not all children are discriminated all the time. Many families are supportive and some community members are aware of equality. However, in general, the society as a whole needs to change to the better so that they are naturally mainstreamed with reasonable accommodation. Section 4 Your views on education and disability in armed-conflict settings What do you consider to be the purpose of education in settings that have been affected by long-term armed-conflict? In principle, the same as any education elsewhere. However, different meanings would be attached, I assume, such as sense of security, normalisation of lives, peer support etc. Perhaps education plays more roles in such areas. What should education in settings recovering from long-term armed conflict such as Northern Uganda look like? I think strongly that this is not the question I should answer. Northern Ugandans who have been affected by the civil war would like to answer it to decide themselves how and what they achieve in the recovery process. They know their needs the best, and it’s not an external person to decide on what “should” something look like. However, in general, as I repeated above, children and people with disabilities need to be included in any post-conflict reconstruction process as active actors. What do you consider to be the purpose of education for children with disabilities in settings recovering from armed-conflict like Northern Uganda? I feel each child with different background of war experiences, impairments and environments has different purpose towards his or her education. Children with disabilities are so diverse that it is difficult to answer this type of question. What activities should be considered ‘educational’ for children with disabilities in settings recovering from long-term armed-conflict such as Northern Uganda? Once again, it’s difficult to answer this type of generalised question, because of the diversity of children and their experiences before, during and after the conflict. Each child would need different attention so that interventions become educational. I assume activities both in and out of schools that make people and children without a disability to perceive equal opportunity of children and people with disabilities are actually educational. It’s not always children with disabilities who are educated, but those who are around them need to be also educated to understand the human diversity and equality, I think. In what ways could ‘educational’ activities for children with disabilities be maintained in future armed-conflict settings or wars? I don’t know what are to be maintained. What are there at the moment, and to whom? Are all children with disabilities in the same position to benefit from existing educational activities in Northern Uganda? I hope children and people with disabilities are involved in making important decisions on what to maintain and what to improve in their areas.
Jukka and Hisayo gave lectures in the framework of "Equal before the Law" project to Central Asian Law Professors
"Equal before the Law: Access to Justice" project with Central Asian countries started in 2011 and has been financially supported by the Finnish government with Venice Commission and Eurasia Foundation. Today, we had the privilege of giving our four-hour-lecture to the invited Central Asian law professors in our Institute for Human Rights at Åbo Akademi University. The topic was of course "Disability and Human Rights." It is always very interesting to meet experts of a different discipline and from a different context. I enjoyed the discussion very much. I hope they also did.
On 7-8th of June, Finnish Disability Studies Conference was held at Turku, Finland. This is an annual conference and the third one. Jukka and I participated in this conference. It was attended by 100 people both from universities and organisations of persons with disabilities. Very active interaction took place throughout the conference: very good mixture of academics and activists. One of the keynote speakers was Associate Professor Helen Meekosha who has published extensively on marginalized groups of persons with disabilities among persons with disabilities. This time, her presentation was on Aboriginal people with disabilities in Australia. It was very striking to observe how many structural barriers are on such marginalized persons with disabilities, while many persons with disabilities have been empowered and mainstreamed elsewhere. This heterogeneity of persons with disabilities was often revisited in different discussions on different themes in different contexts. For me, this conference was particularly interesting to understand the variety of research interests in Finland: from bio-ethics on cochlear implant for pre-lingual children to rights to self-determination of persons with developmental disabilities on housing; from legal study to music. In disability studies, I feel at home. This is an important forum for many of us who are marginalized in academic world. Finland is finally going to have a professor on disability studies at Helsinki University most probably from next year onwards for five years. A number of disability organizations raised fund for establishing this position and donated their contributions to the University. Thus the process is already very significant. We are living in a very exciting time in Finland!