Secondary school number one after Stepan Shahumyan of Lori region, Stepanavan city, has implemented the inclusive education since 2008. Today 41 students with special needs learn at school (children with mental, musculoskeletal disorders, hearing problems etc).
«I have faced problems while trying to place my kid in the school. I was told to take her to boarding school or to special school. They did not take into consideration that the kid has only physical problems. They did not check her mental abilities», says Mrs. Lusine, mother of the third-grade student.
The child has mobility problems (her left side is week and she leans on the right side). Mrs. Lusine says they faced a lot of difficulties during the past years starting from the problem of entering the school and including physical problems and overcoming the psychological complexes.
As Lusine says, the conditions of the school building are not sufficient for children with special needs. Only the main entrance of the school has ramps.
«Toilettes are not equipped in a way that would allow children with special needs to use them without assistance. They do not hire nannies or care givers, I do not mean for whole day but at least when there is a need for them, to accompany kids to the cafeteria because during the breaks it is very briskly in the corridors and our children cannot move», Lusine lists their everyday obstacles.
Currently the children are studying on the first floor (elementary school class rooms are located there). But in middle classes they will have to move to the second floor. Lusine can hardly imagine how her child would overcome the steps every day. She discussed these issues with the school administration on several occasions.
«I have been struggling for already three years, if it can be said so. Last time I talked to the former director in December. They said they were going to do some renovations and had ordered certain goods. Then the director was replaced and now we are waiting for what will happen" says Mrs. Lusine.
The acting director of the school number one of Stepanavan Hasmik Melikjanyan told us that although they do not have a ramp to the second floor, the first floor is mainly equipped for children with musculoskeletal problems and the school administration is trying to improve the conditions.
The problem of treatment
According to Mrs. Lusine, besides the physical problems that children who need inclusive education face, there is also a problem of treatment discrimination.
"Our children get complexes because of the treatment of their classmates or other children. I do not say it is possible to eliminate it completely but activities should be carried out with all children, somebody should talk to them and explain that they are also normal and fully valuable", says Lusine.
The Acting director agrees that there is a problem of treatment and it is one of the biggest problems of inclusive education.
«Our society is not prepared for this kind of perception. Often parents complain that there are such children near their kids. Teachers and school administration are trying to interfere then. We are trying to explain that it is a problem of inclusion, problem of perception and that it is necessary to accept a person with disability as normal. This is the most important issue", says Hasmik Melikjanyan.
She believes that the new generation accepts the idea better and with time the problem of treatment will be solved.
"Our teacher could not imagine how to work, there was a complexity but with time things were settled. I would not say that the specialists are professionals who know how to integrate children. They are just beginners, they just work individually with children", says Mrs. Lusine.
The acting school director Hasmik Melikjanyan says that all their teachers were trained to receive skills allowing them to work with students with special needs and to integrate them.
"Moreover, at the beginning of the year an individual curriculum is elaborated with the assistance of parents, psychologists, special educators, and social pedagogues for students with special needs. Based on the individual curriculum the pupil can receive the appropriate education according to more simple standards ", noticed Melikjanyan.
In Lori marz 280 children need inclusive education. Currently 113 of them receive inclusive education organized in 3 schools of Alaverdi, Vanadzor and Stepanavan.