A group of 25 educators, disability advocates and policymakers from Nepal and Indonesia is in Adelaide as part of an Australian Government AusAID Australia Awards Fellowship program to examine local models of inclusive education for students living with disability.
Hosted by Flinders University, the five-week program includes representatives from the Nepalese National Department of Education, district level education officers, and non-government organisations (NGO) such as Save the Children and Plan International, who are taking part in workshops and site visits to primary schools and disability service providers.
Associate Professor Kerry Bissaker, Associate Dean (Community and International Engagement) in the School of Education and program leader, said one of the primary aims of the Fellowship program was to build networks and partnerships between institutions and countries.
“Beyond the practical, hands-on activities, the program provides an opportunity to reflect together in groups, to talk about what is possible in the delivery of inclusive education in Nepal and Indonesia,” Associate Professor Bissaker said.
“In week five, the participants will present plans and projects they’ll be taking back with them. We’ll also look at collaborative research opportunities,” she said.
Ms Nupur Bhattacharya, from Nepalese NGO Hatemalo Sanchar, said the first two weeks of the program were an eye-opening experience for the participants.
“Attending classes and going to the schools has been an amazing experience, to see the resources, the facilities, the equipment and the technologies [that are available here],” Ms Bhattacharya said.
“We have so many positive things happening with relatively little resources in terms of teacher training, finance and disability experts,” she said.
“But talking about, thinking about and being exposed to wonderful ideas taking place here, that is far more important for us because there are many ideas that don’t cost any money. In groups of three or four, we’ve already started planning: how can we take these ideas to our country? We have to do this by coming together and through greater coordination.”
The Nepalese participants have been encouraged, too, that some of their practices of inclusive education delivery are “not on the wrong track”.
“We’ve been doing quite of lot in our country but in a somewhat scattered way. Those have to be crystallised and with coordination and collaboration, so that those best practices can be scaled up through the country,” Ms Bhattacharya said.
Associate Professor Bissaker said one of the unexpected outcomes of the program is that it has enabled government and non-government organisations in Nepal to come together.
“They have generated an inclusive education forum, and have already met on a couple of occasions. I’m sure that will only grow and become stronger,” Associate Professor Bissaker said.