KUALA LUMPUR, 12 Oct 2019:
The RM23 million allocation for schools to build facilities for special needs children (OKU) proves the government is earnest in ensuring fair education opportunities for the group, says Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik.
“This is good news for OKU children and their parents because for the first time, RM23 million has been set aside to enable us to implement the Zero Reject policy where no child will be denied an education,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.
The allocation was announced by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in the 2020 Budget.
Maszlee, noting the Education Ministry had been accorded the lion’s share of the budget, said he was very pleased and regard it as a responsibility to ensure funds reached the target group.
The ministry received an allocation of RM64.1 billion in Budget 2020, themed, ‘Driving Growth and Equitable Outcomes Towards Shared Prosperity’, compared to RM60.2 billion in 2019.
Meanwhile, Genius Kurnia Centre director Assoc Prof Dr Hasnah Toranyang who is also a Universiti Kebangsaaan Malaysia, Education Faculty lecturer said the allocation showed the government’s concern for special needs children to have the right to education.
“We had been waiting anxiously ever since Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik revealed that the ‘Zero Reject Policy’ would begin this year. This is because substantial funds would be needed to realise it.
“Looking at the budget today, we saw that the ministry is indeed sincere in wanting to ensure that no OKU student would be marginalised from school and the education system.”
Hasnah said physical aspects such as special lanes, ramps, and toilets for OKU students must also be taken into account in the implementation of any policy.
“Attitude can also be a hindrance. Maybe we can use part of the RM23 million to train teachers and educators so they could be better prepared and understand the approach in teaching OKU children,”
Hopefully, she said, the RM5.9 billion allocation increase for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) would benefit OKU children with learning disability as well.
The RM23 million allocation to improve the facilities at all schools to be disabled-friendly would spin off more initiatives to upgrade similar facilities in other public places, Society of the Disabled Persons Penang said.
President Teh Lay Kuan said places like pedestrian walkways, offices and other public places still required improvements to cater for disabled people so that they could be as mobile as any other ordinary members of the public.
“There are many places that still require better disabled-friendly facilities, but it is a great move by the federal government to ensure the disabled would not be hindered from getting proper education in schools.”
While welcoming the inclusion of all disabled persons aged 18 years and above with a monthly income of below RM2,000 as recipients of the Bantuan Sara Hidup cash aid scheme, she also suggested that other incentives be provided for the disabled.
“Probably the government can include increasing the funds for the Disabled Workers Allowance (Elaun Pekerja Cacat), financial assistance scheme and medical insurance.”