Persons with disabilities are at considerable risk of exclusion from education when ICT-based learning programmes are not accessible or students do not have assistive devices to enable their adequate participation and accommodate their learning needs. Learners with special educational needs are often provided with less help and inadequately trained teachers. More time and resources are required for learners with disabilities to actively participate in education. This includes internet access, sufficient equipment and specially designed materials and support, all of which make learning more costly for vulnerable students and their families. Another constraint is that many teachers lack ICT skills and knowledge; many find themselves unprepared to teach online and ensure meaningful involvement of learners with different types of disabilities.
In November – December 2022, IITE launched two dedicated advanced training online courses for educators in the African region. The training programmes constitute a core part of IITE’s capacity building activities within the joint project ‘Integrating Artificial Intelligence and Digital Innovations to strengthen Inclusion and Equity of Education in Africa’, implemented in cooperation with the Chengdu Culture and Tourism Development Group, LLC (PRC).
The newly-launched training programmes ‘Introduction to inclusive education with ICT’ and ‘Open and Distance learning solutions for students with disabilities’ give stakeholders an overview of the viable and perspective ways, methods, and principles of providing access to education to persons with disabilities and special educational needs, the efficiency and capacity of the systemic application of appropriate and relevant technologies duly adjusted to various student needs.
The four-week online training campaign attracted over 200 participants from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Sierra-Leone, with 48% of all trainees represented by female educators. The training groups comprised specialists involved in inclusive education, including but not limited to:
- Teachers and education coordinators;
- Master trainers, curricular developers, and school leaders;
- Specialists of national/ regional teacher training institutions.
The first group of trainees started their learning journey on 7 November 2022. Each course walked the participants through its insightful lectures and performance-driven assignments to expose and highlight the benefits of ICT and its application to promote equity and inclusion in education, the conformity of ICT policy and practice in inclusive education with the commitment of meeting individual learners’ needs and leaving no one behind. Alongside the training activities, each course featured two webinars: an introductory (inception) meeting with a presentation of the curricular programmes and one closing (wrap-up) session dedicated to course-related issues, analysis of accomplishments and challenges experienced throughout the training.
The open-access training courses are hosted by the new online learning platform E-Library for teachers. The latter is a joint project of UNESCO IITE and the global leading creator of Internet communities NetDragon Websoft Holdings (NetDragon). E-Library represents a hub for educational resources and trainings, experience communication and networking, created for teachers around the globe in the English and Russian languages (Arabic version already in the pipeline).