Differently abled need better access to education: Experts

Kieu Trinh

VIET NAM NEWS (Vietnam) – As Cu recalled, when he was a child, his playtime in the park near his house normally ended in tears because of curious eyes aimed at his legs, as he suffers from polio.

When he grew up, Cu often faced questions like “Are you married yet? What is your wife like?”.

“For me, questions like these express discrimination because they assume that people with disabilities can only marry people like them and have unusual children,” Cu told Viet Nam News.

Once, when he took his children to a cafe, Cu was advised by the doorman to go to the sidewalk to drink “for a cheaper price”.

“It was a sincere thought from a kind person, but it also partly shows discrimination against people with disabilities,” Cu said.

Besides social prejudice, people with disabilities also suffer inequality within their own families.

Cu said many families with children with disabilities keep the disabled child at home to save money to spend on their other children’s education.

According to data of the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs, Vietnam has at least 256 vocational training institutions that can train people with disabilities, including 55 specialised vocational training facilities.

But the number of people with disabilities attending vocational school is rather small and they still face many difficulties during their training.

Nao Van Thong, a student who suffers from dwarfism, always feels very tired when he walks up the stairs to the class.

Thong said because of the special shape of his fingers, he could not type as fast as other students.

“I also have difficulties because I have to stand up to use a computer. I hope the school can provide me with a set of tables and chairs that fit my size”, said the first year student of Faculty of Information Technology, Secondary School of Economics and Technology Thu Duc. To enhance education and employment opportunities for people with disabilities, some vocational schools are partnering with Aus4Skills, a programme funded by the Australian government that supports human resource development in Vietnam.

The programme includes short courses and informal learning opportunities to address knowledge and skills gaps and help Vietnam realise its goal of becoming a prosperous, socially inclusive country.

Daren Leicht, an expert from Aus4Skills, said, “We want to help vocational schools to develop quality diversity and social inclusion strategy and action plan to encourage a diversity of student type”.

With support from the programme, these schools develop a strategy to ensure gender equality and diversity and social inclusion, to help people with disabilities access vocational education and employment opportunities.

Deputy Manager of Training Management Department, Secondary School of Economics and Technology Thu Duc Nguyen Long An Di said, “Schools should advise students with disabilities to choose a suitable field to study and help them acquire the skills to find suitable jobs after studying.”

Cu, who now works as a mentor of the programme, believes schools could help reduce difficulties for students with disabilities with many small adjustments.

“Schools could build the ramps for wheelchairs, enlarge the toilet doors so wheelchairs could get in; adjust time and testing methods to suit students with difficulties writing movement; allow students with eye problem to use reading software…”, he said.

Students like Nao Van Thong face many difficulties when studying. PHOTO: VIET NAM NEWS