Prof. A. K. Okorosaye-Orubite & Abdulrahman Yusuf Maigida, Ph.D

Department of Educational Foundations Faculty of Education University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

E-MAIL: (i) (ii) (iii) PHONE NO. +2348032345719


The theory and practice of education in the country Nigeria has always been the one handed down to her by the British colonialists or copied from the system of other countries of the world. Both from her colonial experience and adoption of other countries’ educational experiences, we are still yet to get it right. Segregation, separation and discrimination still exist. People with disabilities or abnormalities for reason not totally theirs, are still suffering the segregation in terms of schooling and other opportunities. They are not supported, rather they are abandoned to their fate. Other developed countries we copy are giving priority and special attention to their less endowed and less opportuned or disabled in terms of education and other things. They are not discriminated, but accepted for who they are in terms of their physical and mental challenges. They are integrated, accepted and supported, so as to see themselves as part of the society they are. Situation in other concerned nations is not without enabling laws that protect and present them with equal opportunities with those having no challenges. United States of America is one of such countries with this superlative consideration and concern for those with various mental, social and physical challenges. Should Nigeria develop a willing heart and emulate this effort of US in the inclusiveness of her education system, the better for her. This paper addresses all of this, including suggestions/recommendations that will simplify the adoption of inclusive education in Nigeria.

Publication Information Okorosaye-Orubite, A. K. and Abdulrahman Yusuf M. (2008) Inclusive Education in Nigeria: Lessons From the United States of America. Published by: African Journal of Historical Sciences in Education. Vol. 4 Nos. 1&2


Education has long been identified as a major vehicle for political, economic and societal advancement. To this extent, governments of the countries of the world desire education for their subjects. It is equally important to note that the whole world has embraced education as a veritable tool for total developments persons and the society. This is evident in the implementation of the Declaration of the World Education Conference held in Jomtien Thailand in 1990 with major focus on Education for All (EFA). However, a decade was slated for the achievement of the EFA goals; the target was that by the year 2000 all countries of the world would have achieved the goals. Having realized, before the appointed year 2000, another conference was held in Dakar Senegal for the Assessment of Education for All achievements so far by countries. United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP) equally came up with an 8 goal – development programmes in 2000 for the whole world. These development goals are tagged “The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), of course, emphasized among others, right to education for all citizens.

Universalizing education has also begun in Nigeria from the days of the colonialists. Precisely in 1955 the then Western region flagged of the Universal Primary Education (UPE) and subsequently in the other regions including Lagos (Osokoya, 1995; Kosemani & Orubite 1995; Fafunwa and Aisiku, 1982). In Africa too, this universalizing of education, specifically primary education was part of the discourse of the 1961 Addis Ababa conference where a six-year free and compulsory education was endorsed with 100% enrolment to be achieved by the end of 1980. As good as all the above efforts are globally, in Africa and Nigeria, the education that would not be discriminatory on the part of those who are disabled has not been given the desired attention, except in some developed nations like the United State of America, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and others. A few developing nations particularly Nigeria pretends to be according the disabled people attention for education. Gabriele (2007) also noted that persons with disabilities in developing countries are among the poorest of the poor, too little attention has been paid to them, so far in major development programmes. In actual fact, the kind of education Nigeria gives to her disabled citizens is still the one, which discriminates against them. They are still accorded a segregated form of schooling where the schools for the handicaps are sited at strategic locations. There are schools for the blind, for the deaf and dumb, even for those with other physical and mental disabilities. To this extent, Nigerian government established a federal teacher training college for special education at Oyo in Oyo State, to produce the needed manpower for the schools for the handicapped.

Specifically, this paper focuses on the United States Experience in the inclusion of the disabled people into the regular and conventional school system and adapting their situation to match the experience of their non-handicapped counterparts; as useful lessons to be learnt by Nigeria for educational inclusion of her own disabled citizens.

Conceptual Clarifications Inclusive Education The concept of inclusive education is that which UNESCO developed. Inclusive education therefore, is that which provides for the teaching of all children in regular local schools, not just children with disabilities (UNESCO). From Stainback (2005), inclusion, in education is the process of allowing all children the opportunity to fully participate in regular classroom activities regardless of disability, race or other characteristics. Osokoya (2007) citing Michigan (1991) sees inclusion in education as the provision of educational services for students with disabilities in schools where non-handicapped peers attend and with general education teachers, with appropriate special education support and assistance as determined appropriate through the Individualised Educational Planning Committee (IEPC). Farrell (2001), in his gun approach sees it as the extent to which a school or community welcomes all people as full members of the group and value them for the contribution which they make. Similarly Staubs and Beck (1995) take inclusion as a placement alternative for accommodating all special needs children alongside their able bodied counterparts in the same learning environment for instructional purpose (Osokoya, 2007). Basically, inclusive development is based on a human rights perception of disability and highlights equal opportunity for persons with disability and their right to play a part in the society (Gabriele, 2007).

Similarly, inclusive education means that all students in a school, regardless of their strengths or weaknesses in any area, become part of the school community. They are included in the feeling of belonging among other students, teachers and support staff. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its 1997 amendments in the U.S make it clear that schools have a duty to educate children with disabilities in general education classrooms.

Objectives of Inclusive Education

Reflecting on the various definitions of inclusive education above, it will be seen and clearly understood that objectives of Inclusive education include among others: – That every one in the school system should have a sense of belonging and thus be accepted and supported by others. – That there should be no segregation in setting of any type to be allowed, as all children should be encouraged to participate in all indoor and outdoor curricular activities. – That environment should be well structured with instructional materials to facilitate individual development of learners. However, the duty to promote disability equality will require schools to have due regards to the following in the operation of their organization to: i. Promote equality of opportunity between disabled and non-disabled persons. ii. Eliminate discrimination that is unlawful under the law iii. Eliminate harassment of disabled persons that is related to their impairments. iv. Promote positive attitudes towards disabled people. v. Encourage participation by disabled people in public life. vi. Take steps to take account of disabled persons impairments, even where that involves treating the disabled person more favourably than other persons (Disability Discrimination Amendment Act, 2005).

Handicaps Categorization The Mentally Retarded

The American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR 1992) defines mental retardation as substantial limitations in two or more of the following applicable adaptive skill areas: communication, self-care, home living, social skills, community use, self-direction, health and safety, functional academics leisure and work. Mercer (1973) sees mental retardation as a deviant range on a continuum of intellectual ability with the normal status being the average or middle range.

The Visually Impaired

The World Health Organization recognizes three levels of visual capacity as normal vision, low vision and blindness. For educational purposes, a person is visually impaired if he or she is blind and thus prefers reading in Braille or other means that do not involve sight (Iroegbu 2005). Therefore, a visually impaired person is someone who has functional limitation in orientation and mobility skills, daily living activities and visual tasks resulting from his or her defective visual condition.

The Hearing Impaired

The hearing-impaired person is someone with hearing loss as his/her major disability. He/she could be deaf or hard-of hearing depending on the severity of his or her hearing loss. In educational terms, deafness connotes that a child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing or without amplification Odewale 2005.

Inclusion in the History

The struggle for equality during the 1950s and 1960s by the African Americans, known as the civil rights movement, raised public awareness of discrimination in the United States (Encarta, 2006). This movement was what inspired activism by various groups, including women and people with disabilities that traditionally had been treated unfairly. However, the first legislation that resulted from the civil rights movement, the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, applied only to people who were discriminated on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, or national origin. At that time, discrimination against people with disabilities remained legally acceptable. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was the first federal legislation protecting employment rights for people with disabilities. Importantly, from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s the rights of people with disabilities were greatly strengthened some America areas. To this extent, the congress adopted several laws regarding accessibility to education, such as the individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975, which guaranteed a public education to children with broad range of disabilities. Worthy to note is that, none of the laws passed during this time dealt with the problem of discrimination against people with disabilities in the critical areas of employment, access to governmental services, and public accommodations.

American with Disabilities Act, Encarta (2006) reported that for the first time, American with Disabilities Act (ADA) but congress did not adopt the law during that session. This bill was strongly opposed by many corporate interests, who feared compliance would be costly. Others argued that the legislation was not needed or was unenforceable. When the bill was re-introduced in the subsequent congressional session, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed it by overwhelming majorities. The turn around was said to be due to the support by a vast coalition of organizations representing people with disabilities. These organizations launched an intensive campaign to change legislators’ votes, culminating in March 1990 with a massive demonstration at the Capital in Washington, D.C. On the 26th of July, 1990, President George Bush signed into law the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

American with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a legislation passed by the United States congress to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities and to guarantee them equal access to employment, public services, including education; public accommodations, and telecommunication. Unlike the earlier laws that were much more limited in scope, the ADA forbids unequal treatment of people with disabilities in a broad variety of circumstances.

The Practice of Inclusive Education in the U.S.

Exclusion, segregation and separation characterized the education of the United States until 1975 when the Congress passed a law on Education of All Handicapped Children Act, extending the right of equal educational opportunity to children with disabilities. In 1990, this federal legislation was re-enacted as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and has undergone numerous amendments. IDEA ensures that children, even those with severe disabilities, have the opportunity to receive a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment (Stainback, 2006). IDEA, together with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 reflected a growing awareness among legislators and educators that separating children with disabilities from children without disabilities constitutes unequal education.

The theory and practice of inclusive education developed through various stages in U.S. These followed the passage of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, most educators then were calling this process mainstreaming, which they defined as placing children with mild disabilities into regular classroom environment for either part or all of the school day. In 1980, the term integration was borrowed, from the civil rights movement in the United States, which had challenged the forced segregation of individuals based on race. Special educations began using the terms inclusion or inclusive schooling during the late 1980s. This usage emphasizes the creation of activities to ensure that every child, including children with disabilities, can participate and be successful in all school settings. For instance, Stainback asserted that if a student suffers from a physical disability that makes it difficult for her to write, his/her teacher may encourage her to tell a story aloud in the class and then ask other students to write an essay based on that story told.

Still important to mention here, education by inclusion of those with disabilities is an effort guided jealously by United States government. It is however evident from a number of legislations that they are well protected under the laws, from 1964’s Federal Civil Rights Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the 1975’s Education of All Handicapped Children Act to the 1990’s individuals with Disabilities Act and that of Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Legislations were not just made, enforcement has been so impressive that a number of discriminatory cases were challenged in American courts and of course which the rulings have always been in favour of the disabled persons. This is crystal clear that the United Government – Executive, Legislature and Judiciary are not insensitive to the yearning, aspiration, even the plights and predicaments of those American with disabilities in terms of employment, public services, public accommodation, telecommunication and more specifically and fundamentally the educational opportunity.

Nigeria’s Situation in the Education of Disabled Persons

Inclusive education is globally gaining serious attention all over the world. For Nigeria, paying attention to the education of people with disabilities has been emphasized in the National Policy on Education 2004 edition, therein, section 10(96b&c) states that:

The education of children with special needs shall be free at all levels. All necessary facilities that would ensure easy access to education shall be provided e.g. inclusive or integration of special classes and unit into ordinary/public schools under the UBE scheme (pg. 48-49).

This provision above, as good as it sounds, its implementation is yet to see the light of the day. However, what is unique in the consideration of the disabled persons for education is the establishment of very many special schools corresponding and identifiable with the nature of handicapping conditions of the enrolled students. For blind schools, deaf schools and school for the handicaps, catering for the education of general categories of disabled persons are established across places in the states of the federation e.g. School for the Deaf, Ilorin; Cheshire Home for the Handicaps, Ijokodo, Ibadan; Oyo State School for the Handicap, Moniya; WAPCO School of Handicaps, Sagamu, Ogun State and for other places. See appendix A.

Akinpelu (2000) stressed that in order to fully meet the needs of those individuals in most countries (Nigeria inclusive) integrating these individuals into every sphere of life is being advocated. Bowley and Gardner (1980) also suggested that the logical outcome of blurring the dividing line between “normal” and “handicapped” is that where applicable, handicapped children should be educated along side their able bodied peers, rather than being segregated in special sub-groups and institutions. Also, it was stated that integration of persons with disabilities is the most realistic form of special education since handicapped children and adults are expected to live together in the society with their able bodied counterparts (FRN, 2004).

Nigerian Government is truly committed to the education of her citizens with disabilities. This is evident in the establishment of a Federal College of Education (special), Oyo for the training of teachers in special education. Another is the funding of the University of Ilorin’s Unit for the Supportive Education for the Deaf, housed in the Faculty of Education. The aforementioned, as earlier maintained, reveals that government has a soft spot for the education of the disabled persons but not thinking in the direction of having them integrated into the regular, conventional schools with their non-disabled counterparts in the same classrooms. The consequences among others manifests in psycho-social maladjustment of the disabled.

It should however be mentioned that some regular and conventional secondary schools in Nigeria have started piloting inclusion in education. Akinpelu (2000) revealed that schools like Ijokodo High School, Ibadan; Technical Secondary School, Umuoka, Enugu State; Government Secondary School, Akabo Kaduna State; G.C.S.S. Nakka, Benue etc are now fully integrating the handicapped into the regular classrooms with the normal students.

The view of Adelowo (2006) supports the above statement when it was reported that: Over the years, there have been various forms of educational provision for children with special needs, but it was believed that since the population of special children is always negligible the best way to carry them along with the others was to attend to them separately. This rationale may seem correct, but in practice it was detrimental to the children. In the special schools, most of the learning inputs were inadequate and inappropriate, special needs students were often considered unteachable so the learning content was watered down and the classroom could be any available space. Since the children were already classified as being unable to learn, it was believed that any teacher would do, even if they were inexperienced and untrained (pg 13).

The unfortunate perspective above quoted has come under review in many countries. For example in the West, the last 25 years have witnessed very vigorous pursuit of integrated educational services. Legislation to support the thinking and wishes of government has been enacted. Adelowo (op. cit) maintained that the zeal, vigour and determination with which these programmes were implemented did not only bring equity and access to quality learning, it ensured the eventual social integration of the special needs learner. This is not to say that integration, as a concept is new. Adelowo further stressed that as far back as 1836, France had suggested integration (a country be for Britain or America), although, it was not implemented in France until 1948.

Lessons from United States of America

As pointed out from the U.S. theory and practice of inclusive education, it is of primal importance that Nigerian governments, policy makers, educational administrators, proprietors and other stakeholders in the general and special education start to imbibe inclusive education for the reasons that United States of America now has inclusive education pursued with total commitment and all seriousness. This is supported by Adedoja (1999) when it was remarked that the United States of America is probably the best example of a country that provided the best education for the disabled children. Olukotun (2005) also shares the same view saying that inclusion has been practiced in the advanced countries (particularly America) and found successful.

In the implementation of inclusive education, it has developed through various stages. Stainback (2006) asserts that after the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, most educators called it the process of mainstreaming which they defined as placing the children with mild disabilities into regular classroom environment for either part or all of the school day.

These are the lessons to learn from the American practice of inclusive education: – The government of the United States of America recognized that all human beings irrespective of their disabilities must be given equal opportunity with their non-disabled persons in educational enrolment, access, retention and completion. – The above is identified as part of the national commitment, resulting in the promulgation and enactment of series of laws at different periods by the American Congress to protect the rights of the American with Disabilities. The various Acts of the American parliament such as ADA, IDEA, and others. – Supportive services are made available for the disabled children to be fit into the regular and conventional schooling. – Facilities were upgraded, modified and adjusted to suit the needs of the disabled e.g. pliable terrain for wheelchair. – Under title II of ADA, states and local government are mandated not to exclude people with disabilities from government programmes or activities. – Job opportunities. Title I of the ADA prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labour against otherwise qualified people with disabilities. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also prohibits discrimination of people with disabilities.

Benefits for Nigeria

For the inclusive students, the benefits are enormous, instructional time with peers without need helps the learner to learn the strategies taught by the teachers. The teachers bring in different ways to teach a lesson for special needs students and peers without need. All of the students will potentially benefit from this.

Equally so, the students learn from the lesson, how to help one another. Similarly, socialization develops and allows students to learn communication skills from one another, thereby building friendships from this interaction. Also, students can learn about hobbies from one another. The friendship in school is important for the development of learning. Basically, involving peers without needs with special needs peers gives the students a positive attitude towards one another, even after school.

Physical fitness development and the achievement of the various accruable benefits of extra-curricular aspects of school-life which the special needs students are involved homeroom, specials such as art and gym, lunch, recess, assemblies, and other electives. Stigmatization associated with special need individuals will be removed when they are streamlined or mainstreamed with those without need. On the other hand, the high rate of alms beggar as a result of their disabilities will be eradicated and special needs students will feel belonging to the society and contribute meaningfully to the national development. As a general dictum, this says that, there are abilities in disabilities.


In principle, a number of factors will inevitably prompt the success of inclusive education in Nigeria if there is embankment on: – Family-school partnerships – Collaboration between general and special education teachers. – Well constructed individualized Education Programme plans – Team planning and communication – Integrated service delivery – Training and retraining of inclusive teachers, or staff development. – Formulation of protective and strengthening laws to back inclusive education.

Conclusion The awareness of the need for inclusion in education has grown worldwide. Many international documents such as the Canadian Commission on Emotional and Learning Disorder report of 1970, the 1978 Warnock Report in England, and the 1984 Report by the Ministry of Education in Australia, refute educational exclusion. All of these documents are part of a growing effort among educators around the world to provide children with the opportunity to learn with and from their peers, regardless of any individual differences they may have. The establishment of specialized institutions for the type of handicapping condition of the learners is still to a large extent a discrimination against them. Nigeria should therefore not be an exemption in joining the world’s focus on educational inclusion. And for Nigeria to embark on inclusive education, so many lessons can be learnt from the United States of America (USA).


Adedoja, T.A. (1999) The Place of Special Education in the Universal Basic Education Scheme in Nigeria. Abuja: Proceedings of the Education Mini Submit. Federal Ministry of Education.

Adelowo, F.O. (2006) Education and Development of the Special Needs Child Obani, T.C. (ed) Teaching Pupils with Special Educational Needs in the Regular UBE Classroom. Book Builders Editions – Africa. Ibadan: Oluben Printers,

American with Disabilities Act 1990. Microsoft Encarta (2006) Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation.

Fafunwa A.B. and Aisiku J.U (1982) Education in African. A Comparative Survey. London: George Allen and Unwin.

Farrell, P. (2001) Special Education in the Last Twenty Years: Have Things Really Better? British Journal of Special Education 28(1) 3-5.

Gabriele, W. (2007) Inclusive Development: The Right of persons with Disabilities to Equal Participation. Adult Education and Development –dvv international

IDEA (1973) Individual with Disabilities Education Act in Okeke-Oti (2006). Iroegbu V.U. (2006) Inclusive Education of Visually Impaired Children in Adelowo T., Osatuyi, N and Ajobiewe T. (Editors). Special Ed. In Nig. A Search for New Director Ibadan Journal of Special Education (1) 39-43.

Kosemani, & Orubite A.K. (1995) History of Nigerian Education: A Contemporary Analysis. Mercer, D. (1983) Students with hearing Difficulties. New York. Macmillan Publishing Co.

Odewale O.J. (2006) Encouraging the use of Creative in the teaching of hearing impaired children in Adelowo T., Osatuyi, N and Ajobiewe T. (Editors). Special Ed. In Nig. A Search for New Director. Ibadan Journal of Special Education (1) 39-43.

Olutokun, J.O. (2004) Inclusive Education for Children with Special Need: A Component of the UBE programme. Ibadan Journal of Special Education (1) 39-43.

Osokoya, I. O. (2007) Educating Children and Youth with Special Needs within the Context of Universal Basic Education in Nigeria. ISCHE 29 Children and Youth at Risk: Approaches in the History of Education. University of Hamburg, 2007.

Oyebola, M. (1997) Rehabilitating the Disabled in Nigeria. Ibadan: Laytal Communications Ltd.

Stainback, S. B. (2006) Inclusion. Microsoft Encarta. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation 2005.

Staubs, P. and Beck, C.A. (1995) What are the Outcomes for Non-Disabled Children. Education Leadership 52 (4) 36-40

UNESCO (1994) The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education. Access and Quality. Paris: UNESCO.



Schools and Centre for Disabled Persons Location/State Government Secondary School* Akabo, Kaduna School for the Deaf Kaduna Special Education School T/Maliki, Kano Special Education Centre Roni, Kano Special Education Centre Daura, Katsina Madam Betty Torry School for Mentally Retarded T/Maliki, Kano Wesley School for the Blind Surulere, Lagos Atundaolu School for Physically Handicaps Lagos G.C.S.S. * Nakka, Benue Maiduguri Madblind Workshop Borno State Special Education Centre for the Exceptional Children Cross River. St. Joseph Rehabilitation Centre for Physically Handicapped Ukana-Iba – Ikot-Ekpene. Ondo State School for the Deaf Ondo Ondo State School for Physically Handicaps Ikare-Akoko Otukpo Blind Workshop Benue State. St. Cyprian’s TTC Special School for Handicaps. Nsukka Umuchu Special School Anglican Mission, Umuchu, Imo State. Vandeikya, Benue State CMMC Special School for the Mentally Retarded Benin City School for the Deaf. Alderstion P/S Warri Joseph’s Day-Care for the Visually Handicapped Obudu, Cross River State Oyo State School for the Blind Ogbomosho Source: Rehabilitating the Disabled in Nigeria – Moji Oyebola (1997). *piloting inclusion as integration.

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