A college in Kazakhstan has been encouraging disabled students to enter into vocational education. We hear from G A Seidullayeva, the director of KazGASA, who has written about the work of the college and how it has affected the lives of two students with disabilities.

Inclusive education has worldwide relevance. 

In Kazakhstan, it is an increasingly important issue, which demands focused attention. The number of children in Kazakhstan with additional educational needs is increasing. The education system in turn should as far as possible include everyone in the learning process in mass kindergartens, secondary schools, vocational schools and higher education institutions. 

Inclusive education means that educational institutions and teachers adapt to the needs of all students, ensuring access to education for students with additional learning needs. 

One of the ways to overcome the barriers to inclusive education is to promote it in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities signed by Kazakhstan in 2008. 

KazGasa is a young college. It first admitted students in 2014 and this academic year (2016-2017) its first students will graduate.  

In the summer of 2014, however, two students with hearing impairments were unsure about whether they would be able to enrol. Sasha Polyiev and Ilyas Seydakhanov and their parents thought that the school might not be able to meet their additional learning needs. Both Sasha and Ilyas had previously studied at a school in Almaty for students with hearing impairments and were successful students. Both had excelled in their studies, played sports and helped their friends to study, enjoying the routines of life in education. Both had also been brought up by parents that had instilled in their children a curiosity about the world and a confidence about their place in it.

After a conversation between the college, the parents and the students, it was decided that Sasha and Ilyas would enrol on courses in architecture.

‘WE WILL MANAGE TO DO IT AND STUDY IN THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS COLLEGE OF CIVIL ENGINEERING AND ARCHITECTURE’, ONE OF THE STUDENTS SAID.

Sasha and Ilyas have now been studying at the college for three years and during this time have been excellent students and have been involved in various extracurricular activities. They have enjoyed the learning process and have often completed extra work and achieved high grades. 

The experience of Sasha and Ilyas demonstrates what can be achieved if we meet the additional needs of people with disabilities and encourage them to learn in mainstream education where possible. Being trained alongside people who do not have disabilities has helped Sasha and Ilyas integrate into society. 

HOWEVER, THERE REMAIN BARRIERS TO EDUCATION FOR MANY YOUNG PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. 

The experience of more economically developed countries shows that it requires lots of work to organise and encourage schools, colleges and other institutions to become inclusive. While the question is of course an educational one, it is also societal. Work is needed to help people with disabilities be involved in the social environment. 

Even the concept of ‘disability’ is problematic. Whether we mean to or not, in using this word we often attribute a status of inferiority onto people, which over time they may come to believe in themselves.      

The example of Sasha and Ilyas demonstrates, however, that with support what appears to be a disadvantage can be transformed into an advantage. 

The college administration will do everything possible to enrol more students with additional education needs and will do everything possible to meet their needs.

The education system can be at the forefront of challenging and changing perceptions and attitudes towards disability all over the world. 

We have a responsibility to encourage and support children with disabilities to gain an education to develop their skills and talents, and to provide spaces for disabled students to interact and learn with students without disabilities.

Sasha and Ilyas dreamed of attending the college of KazGASA and we are delighted that this dream came true. 

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