Inclusive education is a necessity. According to UNICEF, an estimated 90% of children living with disabilities in developing countries are out of school. The World Health Organisation (WHO) report shows that an estimated 25 million disabled persons in Nigeria live with at least one form of disability.
While the Nigerian government has signed and ratified the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, special schools have been created for them ranging for those suffering from visual, hearing, physical, intellectual and communication impairments. Special schools, however, have been found to be socially dysfunctional and irrelevant to the well-being of people with disabilities as they have helped to reinforce negative social practices such as discrimination, segregation and denial of fundamental human rights.
With the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 that ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all, Junior Achievement Nigeria is committed to disability-inclusive education which allows for the comprehensive empowerment of people who have disabilities with entrepreneurship and leadership skills.
Inclusive education gives all students the right to access and gain equal opportunities and learning. Junior Achievement Nigeria’s 2022 National Company of the Year (NCOY) Competition included students from the Special Education School, Tudun Maliki, Kano. They were participants in the JA Company Program – a program that teaches young people how to start and run a business successfully. They formed a student company, the Straw Recyclers and successfully developed a product, and marketed 40 units of shares at 200 per unit with strong support and partnership from their teachers and volunteers. The straw recyclers student company used non-biodegradable materials and recycled them into different home accessories: bags, doormats, home decorations, tissue papers containers, coin purses and more. With the purpose of reducing environmental pollution, they incorporated the 3Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle. Using this method, they successfully recycled straws and abandoned takeaway plastic spoons into valuable materials.
During the 2022 National Company of the Year (NCOY) Competition in partnership with FirstBank Nigeria, the students from the Special Education School, Tudun Maliki, Kano won the award of the CEO of the Year as they have demonstrated strong leadership capabilities and entrepreneurial spirit.
While it is generally known that disability may increase the risk of poverty through lack of employment and education opportunities, the Company Program which focuses on promoting entrepreneurship, leadership and financial inclusion has set the students on a journey to financial freedom, help them own their economic future and ultimately prepare them to build thriving communities.
Research from the World Bank states that people with disability face stigma, discrimination and barriers to accessing basic social and economic opportunities, the 2022 National Company of the Year competition served as a platform to reduce inequality among young people living with disabilities by giving them the opportunity and ensuring no one is left behind. JA Nigeria has also contributed to building the self-esteem of people with disabilities and has promoted disability-inclusive education. Without a doubt, with the support of numerous partners and sponsors, the JA Company Program will continue to reach people with disabilities thereby increasing disability-inclusive education.