inclusion Oman conference

Promoting inclusive education in challenging circumstances

Haiat Al-Ashmoori came seventh in literacy across the entire country. She scored grades of 93.57%, an extraordinary achievement – because Haiat is blind.

Despite her top grades, Haiat’s face did not appear in the media coverage of the country’s top students celebrating at their graduation ceremonies. Blind students aren’t allowed to study mathematics so her name was missed off the list of high achievers.

“The ministry should integrate us with other students.” she says. “We study the same curriculum, so how come they get top ranks while we don’t?”

Her frustration and that of other special needs pupils is only now being heard in Yemen, one of the Middle East’s most under-developed countries with a per capita income of just over $1100 a year.

Raising awareness about the injustice

A grass roots movement for change is bringing together the commitment of Yemeni specialists and the expertise and funding of the British Council. 

The movement is promoting the message of educational inclusion to thousands of teachers and pupils across the country.

Professional and strategic planning

Fatima Mohammed Nasser, a special educational needs (SEN) expert from the southern seaport of Aden, greatly appreciates the British Council’s input saying: “They are professional and they have strategic planning. They teach us the vision, how to explain it and how to plan for the future”.

Fatima is charged with improving SEN provision in one of Yemen’s administrative regions. She and five colleagues have been supported through a Connecting Classrooms training programme. The training draws on the UK’s experience as a world leader in educational inclusion.

Yemen’s precarious security situation means British trainers can’t work in the country, but Fatima, her colleagues and the British Council team in Yemen have trained nearly 15,000 teachers, 30 head teachers and 20 heads of NGOs. They have also spoken to 15,000 schoolchildren about the issue.

Current support in Yemen

There are huge challenges facing those seeking educational reform in a country where corruption, internal conflict and political instability have wrought havoc on the education system.

However, there is some specialist support. NGOs run projects, and across the country 200 schools have provision for partial or total inclusion. Eighty have resource rooms with aids and equipment but they are a tiny minority in a country with nearly 17,000 schools.

How the programme started

Fatima and her colleagues won the British Council’s support for training following a landmark event in Abu Dhabi in 2013. The British Council organised a regional Connecting Classrooms SEN conference, which was followed by a series of study visits to the UK enabling the Yemeni team to see the level of provision in the UK.

On their return they launched a national awareness campaign across all Yemen’s nine Governorates, which was supported by British Council funding and expertise.

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In 2013, the highest ever number of hearing-impaired students graduated from the private Yemen University.

At least 30 special needs students are at university, studying subjects including Psychology, Media, IT and, perhaps not surprisingly, Special Education. Despite her lack of official recognition, Haiat Al-Ashmoori is one of those students. We hope that further progress will be made and the achievements of SEN students will soon be recognised.