Her Excellency Sheikha Jamila bint Muhammad Al Qasimi, Director General of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS), has confirmed that the city, since its establishment, has been working hard to integrate persons with disabilities in a systematic manner that kept pace with global developments. Since 1995, it has called for the inclusion of blind and hearing-impaired persons within public schools in order to achieve this. It has also been keen to demand facilitation in the built environment to achieve full integration of persons with motor disabilities by enabling them to move and access their surroundings.
In order to complete its path of inclusive education in accordance with the latest international practices, the city has worked since 2006 to integrate people with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder into public schools. The city follow-up them periodically by specialists and supervisors, in order to ensure the success of inclusion and achieving the best results.
Because the city believes in the rights of persons with disabilities in all fields, it has been raising people's awareness of these rights and working to achieve it in real life. In 2017, SCHS established the “Inclusive Education Unit” because it believes that inclusion is not only a model of special education. It is rather a way of thinking and practice that includes all members of society.
To this day, SCHS was able to integrate 568 students with disabilities into schools, in cooperation with its partners in state educational institutions. It has also worked in cooperation with partners to establish a comprehensive educational system that contributes to promoting children's rights and providing a supportive and stimulating school environment for inclusion in line with Sharjah Emirate interest in education, reading, and training.
Sheikha Jamila Al Qasimi pointed out that there are international conventions and local laws that deal with the rights of persons with disabilities. Foremost of which is the right to inclusive education. Perhaps the most important of which is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 and ratified by the United Arab Emirates, which in turn issued the law Federal No. 29 of 2006 as amended by Law No. 14 of 2009.
Since that time, the United Arab Emirates has developed many national policies to empower and integrate persons with disabilities in every area of life. The right to education is the main one.
This happened during the "Virtual International Forum on the Quality of Inclusive Education", which Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services organized via the electronic platform "Zoom” on Thursday, February 3.
Her Excellency Jamila bint Salem Musabeh Al Muhairi Speech
At the opening of the forum, Her Excellency the Minister of State for Public Education in the United Arab Emirates, Jamila bint Salem Musabeh Al Muhairi, gave a speech in which she said: The United Arab Emirates has an international reputation. It grants people of determination their rights. The city seeks to empower them in various fields and has a growing record of achieving this and launching qualitative and strategic initiatives.
She has big confidence that the Forum for Quality Inclusive Education will continue this approach. It is an exceptional experience for speakers and participants. We in the United Arab Emirates are used to always moving forward under the guidance of the wise leadership. She also confirmed that people of determination enjoy governmental and social support to grant them all their rights without discrimination. The United Arab Emirates has made significant achievements in ensuring that people of determination obtain these rights without discrimination, enhancing their respect, preserving their dignity, highlighting their capabilities, and providing an outstanding education that meets their needs.
She mentioned the Federal Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is the first law to be issued in the United Arab Emirates. The law emphasizes the protection of their rights and the provision of equal opportunities for them in several areas such as health, education and training and the provision of all services that suit their abilities and capabilities.
She explained that the country's laws and strategic plans emphasize the continuation of the process in developing an inclusive education system designed according to the best international educational curricula and practices that meet the needs of students of determination and enhance the role of specialized teachers and experts to ensure the development of their competencies and training in all fields.
She stressed the importance of the forum in providing participants with an opportunity to exchange experiences and knowledge in order to reach the best practical solutions to meet the challenges and consolidate the concept of inclusive education in all educational stages. The steps are many and distinct. They reflect the keenness of the United Arab Emirates to achieve the concept of inclusive education and to ensure a gradual development of attitudes, behaviors, systems and beliefs so that Inclusive education is the foundation of any school.
She pointed to the importance of emulating global practices and benefiting from successful and worthy experiences. She stressed that people of determination are an active element in society. They have a vital role in the national building system. People of determination have always enjoyed the leadership's attention and care by promoting a supportive and friendly environment for them, in addition to many initiatives and programs that are keen to integrate them to ensure a decent living and the social appreciation they deserve.
She also spoke about the importance of providing the appropriate educational environment for all students without exception and promoting equal learning opportunities so to meet their needs and develop their abilities. The United Arab Emirates believes in these abilities. It is working to develop an inclusive education system for students with disabilities that takes into account their privacy and stimulates mutual harmony inside and outside the school. Educators are working on re-designing and adapting educational curricula to meet the needs of students with disabilities, cooperating with the best expertise, and going into wider spaces to develop the capabilities of specialized teachers and experts. We have the ability to deal with people of determination in an optimal manner that we aspire to.
She hopes to develop appropriate plans within the education sector to support the people of determination educationally and rehabilitate them academically in a participatory learning atmosphere that motivates them and opens up more opportunities and doors of hope and passion for learning and overcoming challenges.
She also pointed out the importance of providing qualified and licensed teachers to contribute to the early detection of disability in order to develop proactive plans for prevention and intervention. They should work alongside the Ministry of Community Development because it is very important to integrate roles and responsibilities and cooperate with relevant social, health and educational bodies and institutions that provide services to families and students of determination.
She stressed the importance of creating an encouraging culture to integrate people of determination into schools and society and to employ the capabilities of the state in order to empower them and benefit from their capabilities by promoting community awareness and qualifying teachers in all schools. They should carry out their responsibilities in this field to the fullest, keep pace with developments and understand the basic principles of dealing with people of determination.
At the conclusion of her speech, the Minister of State for Public Education directed her sincerest thanks to the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services and all the contributors to the success of this forum. She stressed the importance of the role played by the city, the services it provides to people of determination, and the opportunity to adopt international best practices and support the country's leading strategies.
After that, the President of Inclusion International, Ms. Sue Swensen, gave a speech in which she spoke about the Inclusive Inclusion Organization and its role in supporting inclusion and education within it as a top priority. She also stressed the importance and necessity of inclusive education as a fundamental right for people with disabilities. She praised the city's role as an effective member of the Inclusion International.
Self-advocate Sheikha Al Qasimi
After that, the self-advocate Sheikha Al Qasimi, representative of the self-advocates from the Middle East and North Africa region in Inclusion International, gave a speech in which she defined inclusive education and the difference between it and other concepts. She also defined its elements and its importance in the individual's sense of value and inclusion within his community and the exercise of independence in his life.
She also spoke about the international legal foundations for the right to inclusive education. She stressed the close relationship between sustainable development, inclusive education and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Then Ms. Pia Persson, Director of Human Rights, from the Swedish National Agency for Schools and Education for Special Needs introduced a presentation on the experience of the Kingdom of Sweden in inclusive education. The experience of education in the Kingdom of Sweden enjoys a distinguished global reputation. Sweden has achieved exceptional global indicators in the education process that reaches all target groups, through a solid and comprehensive education system.
Her Excellency the Minister of Community Development
In the first session of the forum, "Solutions to Facilitate Inclusive Education", which Sheikha Jamila bint Muhammad Al Qasimi moderated, Her Excellency Minister of Community Development Hessa bint Issa Bu Humaid, spoke about the Higher Committee for Services for People of Determination that was formed by a decision of the Council of Ministers in 2019. Within the framework of evaluating and studying the current reality and the challenges faced by persons with disabilities in the country. The committee propose legislation, policies, plans and initiatives through which the city adopt the primary rules and controls to promote inclusive care and rehabilitation in the country.
This committee is also concerned with approving frameworks for cooperation and coordination between the authorities concerned with the affairs of people of determination in the country. It reviews the state report on the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and follow up on recommendations issued in this regard to anticipate the future and needs of persons with disabilities and find proactive solutions.
She said, “The vision of the government of the United Arab Emirates for the future of people of determination becomes clearer through the national policy to empower people of determination, which includes a focus on education and the accompanying integration and empowerment. The Higher Committee for People of Determination Services is keen to activate this policy and embody it on the ground with the best achievements despite the challenges”.
Here it is necessary to refer to the efforts and role of the Education and Human Resources Council, chaired by His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, which considers the issue of integration very important and within its agenda. He is constantly following up on all developments in this regard to enhance the achievement in this field and all that is required to educate parents and involve them in this continuous process.
She explained that inclusive education faces challenges related to persons with disabilities of different ages and groups and the diversity of their needs. In addition to the requirements of a qualified environment, qualifying key cadres, educating students themselves, their schoolmates and parents, and consequently educating the community in general.
She added, "Reality is witnessing many rapid steps taken by the United Arab Emirates in the field of inclusive education and the comprehensive inclusion of persons with disabilities. The Ministry communicates with the Ministry of Education, the relevant educational institutions and social institutions. On this basis, the Ministry of Community Development strives to develop a road map, cooperation and integration with the concerned authorities, including our talk today in the forum on the topic of inclusive education.
Efforts are ongoing to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society in general. She expressed her hope that the forum would open more areas of cooperation and the horizon of success for its participants and achieve the goals emanating from the vision of the leadership and the government to create a stimulating and beautiful reality for people with disabilities.
Her Excellency thanked Her Excellency Sheikha Jamila bint Muhammad Al Qasimi and all the organizers of the International Forum for providing the opportunity to exchange experiences and knowledge and to emphasize the importance of early detection of disabilities. The forum had an essential role that show state institutions research and early detection of disabilities and achieving better results in the issue of inclusion.
She emphasized that United Arab Emirates has issued 29,000 cards to people of determination, 19,000 of which are for citizens, and there are 8,700 cases of physical disabilities, about 8,800 mental disabilities, 4300 cases of autism spectrum disorder, and 3000 hearing disabilities.
She emphasized that the disabilities that are most integrated in schools are motor, audio and visual disabilities. Work depend on educating the community in its various institutions on the importance of integrating the rest of the disabilities, improving their quality of life and ensuring the greatest success for them.
At the conclusion of her speech, Her Excellency Hessa bint Issa Bu Humaid praised the success of the Special Olympics in the United Arab Emirates. It has a role in integrating people with disabilities in sports. His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces honored those athletes last week for their distinctive achievements.
After that, Her Excellency Dr. Muhadditha Al Hashemi, Chairman of the Sharjah Private Education Authority and President of the Sharjah Education Academy, spoke about the role of the Sharjah Private Education Authority in integrating students with disabilities into private schools and the most important measures taken to ensure the success of this integration. In addition to the measures taken by the Authority to facilitate the access of students educationally handicapped persons.
Dr. Rabaa Al Sumaiti, Director General of the Emirates Foundation for School Education, and Dr. Abdul Aziz Saeed bin Butti Al Muhairi, Director of the Sharjah Health Authority, who spoke about the most important health procedures and policies followed in order to integrate persons with disabilities in cooperation between the Sharjah Health Authority and the Sharjah Education Authority.
Dr. Hanadi Obaid Rashid Al Suwaidi, Director of the Sharjah Center for Learning Disabilities, and Ms. Fatima Ibrahim Abdullah Belrahif, Executive Director of the School Inspection Authority at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, spoke at the session.
The second session "Towards the quality of inclusive education"
In the second session, "Towards the quality of inclusive education", moderated by Professor Ziad Younis Shatat, Director of the Continuous Improvement Department at the Sharjah Private Education Authority, Professor "Arlene Kanter", Professor of Law at Syracuse University College of Law, spoke about the right to inclusive education under international law. Dr. Abd Allah Ahmad Ali Al-Ghamdi, Assistant Professor at the College of Education at Taif University, talked about the successful integration of students with disabilities.
Dr. Nadra Omran Musa Al-Borno, Associate Professor at the American University in Dubai, discussed changing trends in the march towards inclusive education. He spoke about the importance of the teacher’s role in achieving inclusive education for all and the essential factors affecting the performance of that role, foremost of which is the way of thinking and beliefs.
She pointed out that changing ways of thinking and beliefs is a key to developing and motivating inclusion. The various stories and experiences have a role in changing ways of thinking for the better and helping to devise special and appropriate solutions for inclusion.
The session concluded with Mr. Wael Ahmed Al Sayed Allam, Director of Educational Services Department at Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, who spoke about the inclusion of students with severe and multiple disabilities.
Wael focused on the importance of including the process of inclusion for students with severe and multiple disabilities and the challenges associated with that. He referred to some strategies proven with scientific evidence as the most effective methods for integrating students from this group based on recent Arab and foreign studies.
Among the most important recommendations made by Allam is the necessity of expanding the use of supportive and alternative communication (AAC), employing supportive technologies, taking care of children with complex health care needs in the context of inclusion, and preparing programs to modify trends towards integrating this group of students.
Parents... (Experiences and Stories)" in the third session
In the third session moderated by Dr. Samia Muhammad Saleh, Director of Al-Wafa School for Capacity Development, which was entitled “Supporting Families in Inclusive Education (Experiences and Stories)”, the forum attendees listened to some of the experiences of parents, depending on the fact that the family is a true partner in student education and integration. It has always called and worked hand in hand. However, with the concerned institutions and centers to claim their rights in all fields, foremost of which is the right to inclusive education.
Fourth Session "The Reality of Inclusive Education"
Within the fourth session, “The Reality of Inclusive Education,” moderated by Dr. Diane Richler, Head of Stimulating Inclusive Education at the International Inclusive Inclusion Organization, Duaa Muhammad Abdullah Dridi, supervisor of the inclusive education unit in the city, spoke about the experience of inclusive education. Judy Carr, former Minister of Education in Canada, also spoke about children who learn together in school, how they learn to live together in the community, focusing on the benefits and positive effects of inclusion, reviewing some practical and realistic models. He referred to the role of policies and legislation in this process. He stressed that inclusion provides opportunities for success for children. It gives them additional experience and expertise.
The session concluded with Dr. Carol de Casal, Professor of Educational Leadership, Director of Higher Education and Doctoral Programs at Community College, Tennessee State University, where she spoke about understanding US federal requirements for inclusion for special education students.
At the end of the meeting, the following recommendations were presented:
1. Emphasis on the inclusion of children from all groups, regardless of the type of disability
2. Preparing and implementing programs to modify trends for the general public, specialists and educators
3. Expand the use of assistive technologies and training in their use
4. Translating and publishing recent foreign studies and exchanging experiences with other countries on the latest developments and best practices in the field of inclusive education
5. Increasing the number of studies in Arab environments on various aspects of inclusive education
6. Raising awareness of local and international laws and legislation that guarantee the right to inclusive education
7. Participation of persons with disabilities in decision-making on the importance of inclusive education
8. Highlighting the role of the family as an essential and effective factor in the success of inclusive education
9. Coordination and cooperation between all educational, health and social authorities to integrate students with complex health needs and provide their requirements in the context of integration
10. Emphasizing the importance of accurate assessment and diagnosis and the provision of Arabized and codified tools and measures within the local environment to support successful integratio